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Thunderbirds to kick off Super Bowl XLI while other F-16s secure the no-fly zone

February 1, 2007 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The Thunderbird F-16s are scheduled for a flyby over the Dolphin Stadium during Super Bowl XLI Feb. 4 over Miami while other F-16s will be patrolling the no-fly zone.

USAF F-16s from the Thunderbird demonstration team fly off the wing of a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft during refueling over McConnell AFB on September 7th, 2006. [USAF photo by MSgt. Maurice Hessel]

The Air Force Thunderbird's red, white and blue F-16s will roar over in their signature six-ship Delta formation at the conclusion of the national anthem flying at approximately 500 feet and 450 mph.

This flyover will be the sole exception on the no-fly zone which is set for 10 miles in every direction around Dolphin Stadium to an altitude of 18,000 feet,

During the Super Bowl, any pilot with bad intentions or bad luck who strays into a no-fly zone on Sunday can count on an immediate, robust response from F-16 jet fighters.

The flight rules take effect at 16.00h on Sunday -- about two hours before game time -- and end shortly before midnight.

There is even a contingency plan for shooting down a threatening aircraft if absolutely necessary, but such an order would only come from "national command authority" at the highest levels of the U.S. government, said John Beutlich, director of CBP's Air and Marine operation at Homestead.

Once the restrictions take effect, an airborne armada will take to the skies over South Florida, with Air Force F-16 and F-15 fighters assuming the key role of intercepting any jetliners or private jets that arouse suspicions.

"Once that's up, then our birds will be in the air," said Mike Strickler, spokesman for the 1st Air Force that among the units responsible for continental U.S. air defenses. "We'll be looking for anything out of the ordinary."

CBP, a part of the Homeland Security Department, will have its Blackhawk helicopters and Citation jets ready to track smaller private planes. CBP also has a new Dash-8 turboprop equipped with a special, ground-directed radar that can track 99 targets at the same time, said CBP spokesman Zachary Mann.

The Super Bowl is the nation's highest-rated TV program annually. According to the NFL, more than 141 million viewers in the U.S. tuned into last year's game. Super Bowl XLI will be broadcast to a potential worldwide audience of 1 billion in more than 230 countries and territories.