Here’s the good news, Super Bowl XLI fans, the air war at home is going just grand! Yes, you’ll see the usual crack team of Air Force Thunderbirds performing over Miami’s Dolphin Stadium in thrilling pre-game ceremonies.
But that is not all… oh no, that is not all at all. In fact, as an estimated 1,000-plus private jets fly the rich and famous into local south Florida airports this week for the highest holy day on the American entertainment calendar, the Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command Region is gearing up its area patrols, part of Operation Noble Eagle–NORAD’s response to the fact that it couldn’t get armed planes off the ground back on September 11, 2001.
In its own version of pre-game ceremonies, NORAD fighters are planning to “make low approaches at several local airports Feb. 2, including Boca Raton, Pompano Beach Airpark, Fort Lauderdale Executive, Opa Locka, and Kendall-Tamiami Executive.” And then, of course, they will be “increasing sorties” over, and patrolling of, the potentially al-Qaeda-ridden skies over the Super Bowl itself. This is proof, as Maj. Gen. Henry C. Morrow, the commander of both the 1st Air Force and the Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command Region, put it in an American Forces Press Service release bursting with pride, “of our continuing resolve to protect our homeland and citizens during these major events.”
All of this is meant “to ensure public safety while demonstrating NORAD’s rapid response capability” (useful undoubtedly in future intra-Pentagon budget battles). In the process, the Federal Aviation Administration is also “prohibiting all general aviation aircraft from flying within about 11 miles of the stadium from two hours before kickoff until about midnight.”
Even the Goodyear blimp will be missing. After all, military planners have to assume that the leaders of al-Qaeda, in those camps along the Pakistani border stocked with DVDs (and probably resupplied by Netflicks via some jihadi website), have seen the 1977 action flick Black Sunday and watched that ominous blimp head for the Super Bowl bent on mayhem. You can’t blame the Goodyear Blimp people either. Based on checkpoint behavior in Iraq, this could be a shoot first, ask questions later situation for any blimp in sight.
And let’s hope that Sunday kickoff doesn’t fly too high and kick off any NORAD warning signals.