HOUSTON, TEXAS – Civil Air Patrol’s Texas Wing flew Jan. 24 and will fly again Jan. 31 and Feb. 2 in southeast Texas to help the Air Force ensure the safety and security of airspace around NRG Stadium and Super Bowl 51, slated for Feb. 5.
To help train U. S. Air Force fighter aircrews and maintain their proficiency, Civil Air Patrol flies its aircraft into simulated restricted airspace playing the role of a trespassing aircraft as the Air Force jet crews practice intercept techniques. The Air Force pilots fly alongside the CAP plane, make radio contact and guide it out of the restricted airspace.
Post Sept. 11, 2001, the FAA routinely implements Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR) around major events like the Super Bowl, VIP flights and major disasters. Airspace around these TFR areas is restricted from all general aviation traffic for a specific radius to ensure no aircraft enter. The TFR is enforced by the Air Force, which has fighter aircraft patrolling the area during the time of the restriction.
Two CAP Cessna 182 G1000 aircraft from the Texas Wing fly as intercept targets for the Texas Air National Guard. CAP’s “low and slow” aircraft are considered ideal targets for these exercises.
A third CAP aircraft, known as a “high bird,” flies as a communications hub coordinating radio traffic from participants on the ground and in the air.
The Texas Wing will also participate with the Air Force in media flights designed to grant access to news teams that will highlight the joint training missions and these flights’ importance to the safety and security of American citizens.
These events mark CAP’s 16th year as a participant in North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) air-defense exercises designed to protect the Super Bowl’s airspace. CAP is involved in similar exercises around the U.S. throughout the year to test aerospace security.
The exercises, known as Falcon Virgo, are carried out as part of Operation Noble Eagle, launched by 1st Air Force/Continental U.S. NORAD Region (CONR) after the 2001 terror attacks. Along with CONR’s Western Air Defense Sector and CAP, the exercises are conducted in coordination with the FAA and Customs and Border Protection.
CAP is also responsible for raising general aviation community awareness of TFRs. Aircrews from throughout Texas Wing will fly to numerous airports to inform pilots about the TFRs and penalties for violation.
Civil Air Patrol, the longtime all-volunteer U.S. Air Force auxiliary, is the newest member of the Air Force’s Total Force. In this role, CAP operates a fleet of 560 aircraft, performs about 90% of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 80 lives annually.
CAP’s 56,000 members also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies.
Operating as a nonprofit organization, CAP also plays a leading role in STEM/aerospace education, and its members serve as mentors to 24,000 young people participating in CAP’s Cadet Programs.