FAA, Local Airports Ramp Up for Super Bowl 51

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The aviation world is gearing up for this year's Super Bowl! The FAA has banned drones, pilots are making ramp reservations at FBOs, and local air traffic controllers are instituting specific arrival and departure routes, all in the name of aviation safety, security, and efficiency surrounding one of the nation's largest sporting event of the year.  

The FAA recently released its TFR information and route planning guidance for pilots who intend to fly to and from airports near the 2017 Super Bowl on Sunday, February 5th, and FBOs at local airports have been taking ramp reservations for general aviation and corporate pilots who are flying in.

 The New England Patriots will face the Atlanta Falcons at NRG Stadium in Houston. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Eastern time.

The FAA says they expect a large increase in air traffic to and from Houston airports during the Super Bowl. As such, there will be two temporary flight restrictions in place, along with a series of mandatory arrival and departure routes for local airports. Guidance for pilots that will be flying to or from these airports and for aircraft that will be transitioning the airspace around Houston can be found ​at http://www.fly2sb51.org. In addition, the FAA has banned all drone activity within a 34.5 nautical mile radius around NRG stadium on the day of the event.

The temporary flight restriction (TFR)  is one nautical mile wide and will extend from the surface to 2,999 feet MSL, and will be in place from 12:00 p.m. CST until 4:00 p.m. CST on February 5th.

The second TFR is a restriction around NRG Stadium from 4 p.m. until midnight CST on game day, and extends out to a 30-nautical mile radius, with a 10-nautical mile inner ring.

The inner circle prohibits all aircraft operations with the exception of normally scheduled airline and cargo operations, approved law enforcement or air ambulance operations, and military aircraft. Inside of the outer circle, traffic will be limited to aircraft on ​VFR or IFR flight plans that are arriving and departing local airfields.

These aircraft must maintain 2-way radio communication and squawk a discrete code at all times.

The TFR also bans all unmanned aircraft, model rocket flights, flight training operations, glider and ultralight activity and pipeline survey operations, among others, inside of the 34.5-nautical mile radius.

Pilots who intend to fly into the airports surrounding NRG Stadium should know that there will not be a special traffic management program (e-STMP) for air traffic at this year’s Super Bowl event, but there are airport-specific ​NOTAMs that will be used to manage traffic through the use of specific arrivals and departures. According to NBAA, “…ramp reservations will be required for both IFR/VFR arrivals and departures from February 2nd through 6th at all Houston-area airports.” Of course, particular attention should be paid to NOTAMs on the day of the event, as the FAA could still implement special air traffic management procedures like a ground delay program or an airspace flow program if the traffic volume demands it. For more information on airport-specific NOTAMs, visit the NBAA's Super Bowl 51 website.