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Major Sports Worried about flyovers

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Skirts Will Rise
Jan 17, 2002
Stadium flyovers worry sports leagues

By Mimi Hall, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — The NFL, Major League Baseball and Big Ten athletic directors are demanding that the federal government tighten a post-Sept. 11 ban on flights over sports stadiums.

Since spring, the government has granted hundreds of waivers to companies that fly small banner-towing planes, allowing them to fly over stadiums across the USA.

"Sports interests have grown increasingly alarmed," National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue wrote in a July 30 letter to Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. "Flight restrictions have become unpredictable, difficult to enforce and of limited, if any, value as a security measure."

But the Transportation Security Authority says the flights, mostly by planes trailing advertising banners, will be allowed under a stricter policy that will require fingerprinting and background checks of pilots and passengers.

The dispute pits powerful sports interests against small aviation companies that display ads for bars and car dealers. It also highlights the ongoing debate about how to handle serious security concerns without infringing on the rights of individuals and businesses.

After Sept. 11, the Federal Aviation Administration banned planes from flying within 3.45 miles of large stadiums during events.

But last winter, officials began allowing planes whose pilots were known to local controllers to resume flying over stadiums.

James Butler, president of Hollywood, Fla.-based Aerial Sign Company, which has 50 small planes across the country, says his planes got case-by-case waivers starting in February. In March, he says, he got a blanket waiver and is now sending planes over every Major League Baseball game.

Butler charges, "This is about the money." He says sports interests are trying to control the airspace because they don't get paid by the banner-towing companies.

But the sports leagues note that security experts have called stadiums a security risk since Sept. 11.

"The assembly of many thousands of people in a ballpark is a circumstance that has been recognized as a national security threat," John McHale of Major League Baseball says.

The baseball league has no problem with the blimps that hover over stadiums with TV cameras, he says, because there are only a few blimp companies, and "we know who they are."

The sports leagues also have the backing of the nation's mayors.

Noting that the football season and baseball playoffs are about to begin, U.S. Conference of Mayors President Thomas Menino of Boston asked Mineta in an Aug. 12 letter to clarify the flight-restriction rules as soon as possible so that local police and other law enforcement officials "know what needs to be done to protect the public at major sporting events."
Seems to me that James from Aerial Signs hit the issue right on the nose... they aren't getting paid and they want to.

And then one of the sports figures says that the police should get involved... hold on a second buddy, can Police see Mode C readouts, can they read the N numbers on the ground. What are they going to do, shoot them down?

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