Jarod MacDonald-Evoy

(Arizona Mirror) North American Aerospace Defense Command, also known as NORAD, will be conducting operations over Phoenix and Glendale airspace in the coming days for Super Bowl LVII in conjunction with other federal and local authorities.

NORAD, along with the FBI, Federal Aviation Administration, the Civil Air Patrol and the Glendale Police Department, spoke to reporters this week about the communication between the agencies during the event, which is expected to bring thousands of people and millions of dollars to the Phoenix area.

The FAA’s Western Regional Administrator, Erik W. Amend, said they expect thousands of additional flights into Phoenix Sky Harbor this week.

Additional temporary flight restrictions, or TFRs, have already been issued that will take effect in the coming days in both downtown Phoenix and the Glendale areas. In downtown Phoenix, from Thursday morning and through Sunday night, drones are no longer allowed except for use by federal and local law enforcement or fire departments.

“We want to encourage everyone to leave their drones at home,” Amend said.

Drones will also be restricted around State Farm Stadium, the Glendale facility hosting the Super Bowl, starting on Sunday, as will other aircraft. Emergency flights and regularly scheduled commercial flights are allowed in the two-mile TFR around the stadium but if a private pilot or a flight not scheduled or cleared by the FAA enters it, then they could end up dealing with NORAD.

Circling well above the Super Bowl on Sunday will be members of the Arizona National Guard’s 161st Refueling Wing in a KC-135 tanker that will be refueling F-16 fighter jets patrolling the skies to intercept any stray aircraft that may wander into the restricted airspace. A NORAD spokesman said that they will have everything from tankers to advanced warning aircraft flying over the region, but would not elaborate further.

“You watch the game, we’ll watch the skies,” Air Force Maj. Andrew Scott with the Continental U.S. NORAD Region said.

NORAD, along with the Western Air Defense Sector (WADS), are responsible for protecting the airspace over the western states. WADS and the Continental NORAD Region are based out of Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. The 162nd Fighter Wing, based in Tucson, is an assigned unit of WADS.

If an aircraft finds itself in the restricted airspace, air traffic controllers will attempt to contact that aircraft, then dispatch fighter jets if no contact is made. Those jets will continue to try to contact the aircraft. If that doesn’t elicit a response, then they’ll fly alongside them and “rock their wings.”

The fighters may try to see if they can get the person to go to frequency 121.5, the emergency distress signal, and see if they can then escort the aircraft to a nearby airport.

But while members of the United States Air Force and Air Guard are patrolling for aircraft, other agencies will be watching for another emerging issue within the United States’ airspace.

“You will be caught. We have methods to identify who you are,” Special Agent in charge of the Phoenix field office of the FBI, Daniel Mayo, said about those who choose to fly drones within the newly established TFRs.

Last year, the FBI warned that drones are becoming a risk to critical infrastructure after reports of multiple drones were spotted flying over a Louisiana chemical facility. The agency has also been investigating multiple cases in the United States of people attaching homemade bombs to drones. The Glendale Police Department said they plan to assist in enforcing the “no drone zone” around the stadium.

The no-drone zones in both Phoenix and Glendale go up to 18,000 feet and can carry criminal charges on top of fines, additionally the FBI stated they would likely confiscate a person’s drone if found. Those looking for information on the exact rules and regulations can go to faa.gov/superbowl

NORAD’s mission of protecting the airspace isn’t a new one, last year they did the same thing when the Super Bowl was in Los Angeles.