Originally created 01/27/99

New tower to direct air traffic over Super Bowl stadium



WASHINGTON -- Five federal employees are going to have a bird's-eye view of the Super Bowl this weekend, and they're not even going to have to use a vacation day.

The Federal Aviation Administration will erect a temporary control tower to oversee the more than 475 helicopters, blimps and sign-draggers expected to buzz around Pro Player Stadium in Miami.

Five air traffic controllers armed with binoculars and two-way radios will staff the tower on Saturday and Sunday. It will be located atop the stadium's northeast corner, occupying what would normally be 10 rows of seats.

The 8-foot-by-10-foot structure won't have working radar, but the controllers will be able to talk with the tower at Miami International Airport -- where they normally work. They will direct aircraft within a one-mile radius of the field.

"The use of aviation at special events has immensely increased over the years," said Wayne Boggs, manager of the temporary tower. "FAA, in partnership with the National Football League, identified a need to increase the service and enhance safety for the users and all of the fans."

The NFL, in fact, requested the tower and will pay the $6,000 bill to operate it. It became concerned about air traffic control during last year's Super Bowl in San Diego.

Not only are there news helicopters and blimps to provide aerial TV shots, but many celebrities and corporate VIPs attending the game arrive by helicopter.

Pilots who will be operating around the stadium this weekend have to attend a special FAA briefing and sign a letter agreeing to the rules. Blimps will fly at 1,700 feet, banner planes at 1,200 feet and helicopters must take off and land at two designated helipads.

The FAA has previously created temporary control towers for events such as the Masters golf tournament, but they have never been on site. Instead, they have been located at nearby airports that do not have their own towers.