Friday, February 3, 2017
Law enforcement eyes will be in sky over stadium area
Houstonians may glimpse UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters monitoring the skies on Super Bowl Sunday.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection will have three Black Hawks prepared to intercept unauthorized planes if they fly into restricted areas. Also assisting in the agency's game day security are three Cessna C-550 Citation jets and two Airbus AS350 helicopters.
The government agency took reporters and photographers on a ride Thursday afternoon to showcase the Black Hawks and discuss how it will work with other agencies on Super Bowl security.
"Any time you have large crowds, there's a potential there for criminal activity," said David Grantham, a pilot with Air and Marine Operations, which is a component of Customs and Border Protection. "We have a multitude of law enforcement agencies, so we will work together to improve our mutual capabilities."
Between 4 p.m. and midnight on Sunday, air travel will be restricted in the 30-mile radius around NRG Stadium as the Federal Aviation Administration has issued a temporary flight restriction.
To fly in the perimeter of this area, pilots need to be in contact with air traffic control.
The core, 10-mile radius around NRG Stadium is a stricter no-fly zone. Very few aircraft are authorized in this area, such as planes with scheduled airlines, military aircraft, air ambulances and law enforcement aircraft.
Usually, pilots who fly into the restricted area aren't malicious. "All but just a minor handful are honest pilots making mistakes," Grantham said.
Being intercepted by a Black Hawk isn't the first tactic to reach these pilots. Unauthorized pilots in the restricted area will be radioed first.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command will also have fighter jets and tanker aircraft to fuel those jets on alert if a plane needs to be intercepted on Super Bowl Sunday.
Anthony Roman, president of global investigation and risk management firm Roman & Associates, said the agencies have different levels of expertise and aircraft equipped with different security and surveillance capabilities.
He said the temporary flight restriction "is highly effective and highly efficient and inter-agency regulated."
To practice aircraft interceptions, volunteers with the Civil Air Patrol in Houston have acted as unauthorized planes flying into the restricted area. They flew Jan. 24, Tuesday and Wednesday to help the 138th Fighter Wing, Detachment 1 of the Air National Guard.
This is the Civil Air Patrol's 16th year assisting in air defense exercises to protect the Super Bowl's airspace.
Outside of such practices, it assists with taking flood assessment photos and search and rescue missions, among other things.
'It's an honor'
"It's an honor to come out and to do this type of thing," said Maj. Ken Wiggins, incident commander for the Civil Air Patrol in Houston.
In addition to these intercepts, Customs and Border Protection will be using its Airbus AS350 helicopters to shoot video that can provide a better perspective to law enforcement on the ground.
Jeff Price, professor of aviation management at Metropolitan State University of Denver, said such surveillance is critical if there were to be a shooting or explosion.
It can help secure the scene and provide the best route for emergency responders to take.
"The quicker you can get people into the response site, the quicker you can start saving lives," Price said.
Story and photo gallery: http://www.houstonchronicle.com
Posted by Kathryn on 12:54:00 AM