Super Bowl Sunday only comes once a year, but it requires over a year’s worth of preparation.
Prior to last year’s Super Bowl in Houston, several federal agencies, including U.S. Homeland Security and U.S. Border Patrol, were already studying and putting together a plan for defending the skies above Minneapolis, Minnesota, host of this weekend’s Super Bowl 52. Throughout the last year, training exercises have been held to prepare a variety of units within the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
Wednesday, the 148th Fighter Wing in Duluth, Minnesota deployed two F-16’s in the skies above U.S. Bank Stadium to simulate an interception of a mock rogue aircraft. The rogue airplane in Wednesday’s training was a Cessna flown by the Civil Air Patrol. This training ensures the Air National Guard pilots are comfortable flying low and slow with a smaller aircraft. The pilots practiced communicating with the rogue aircraft via radio and aviation hand signals in an attempt to guide the airplane out of restricted airspace.
In support of the F-16’s on Sunday, a KC-135 will be airborne from the Wisconsin Air National Guard to refuel the fighters throughout the afternoon. Aerial refueling will take place at around 21,000 feet and at about 315 knots.
The Federal Aviation Administration will impose a temporary flight restriction in a 30-mile radius around U.S. Bank Stadium beginning Sunday afternoon. If an aircraft enters the restricted airspace, air traffic controllers will try and make contact with the unauthorized aircraft. If that fails, fighters will be scrambled into position and will attempt to make contact with radio or hand signals. Since 9/11, NORAD has been 100% successful in safely escorting aircraft outside the temporary flight restriction.
In addition to F-16’s, U.S. Homeland Security has three Black Hawk helicopters as well as A-Star helicopters that will be a more visible source of protection in the skies above Minneapolis Sunday. They’ll be based out of Flying Cloud Airport.
Come Sunday afternoon, you’ll only see four aircraft fly over U.S. Bank Stadium, with that being the United States Air Force Heritage Flight!