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Super Bowl 50: A closer look at airspace security

With the Super Bowl coming up at San Francisco’s Levi’s Stadium between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos, additional safety measures are being put in place to accommodate the more than 100,000 fans who will pour into the Bay Area this weekend. Ahead of Sunday’s game, the Department of Homeland Security has put a Special Event Assessment Rating level 1 – or SEAR 1, which indicates the greatest risk for a public event. However, the FBI and the Secretary of Homeland Security emphasized Wednesday that there is no specific, credible threat. "[We] look forward to a safe, secure and successful Super Bowl 50," Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said. FBI agent David Johnson also stressed, "The FBI is unaware of any specific, credible threats." While the Super Bowl is generally deemed level 1 for security, this year authorities are exercising additional caution, taking a lesson from the tragic November coordinated ISIS attacks in Paris, in which militants targeted civilians with a suicide bomb outside the Stade de France as well as shootings at cafes, restaurants and a concert hall in central Paris, killing 130. Added precautions include collaboration by approximately 30 federal agencies including the Secret Service, FBI, the Coast Guard, TSA and others. The skies will be patrolled by both the Air National Guard’s F-15 Eagle and the Civil Air Patrol’s Cessna 182. Civil Air Patrol has been assisting the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in Super Bowl surveillance for 15 years. In addition, security officials announced Wednesday, that a three-to-four-mile security perimeter would be established around the stadium before kickoff. An additional 32-mile no-go zone has been announced for drones. Strict security measures and the large influx of fans coming into both the San Jose and San Francisco airports have limited the number of flights that are available. “The Bay Area is already one of the most valuable and high volume air spaces in the U.S., so we definitely expect a large increase in travel and security presence in both the sky and the airport,” Greg Raiff, Founder and CEO of New Hampshire-based Private Jet Services said, who typically accommodates about 10-25 flights for the Super Bowl. The NFL is predicting another 2,000 to 2,500 private planes will come into Central Coast airspace. “In our case, (increased security) means to tell our clients to be on the ground, landed, before those enforcements are in place. It also means running an additional level of pre-flight checks to make sure everything is as pristine as can be on the day of operations,” Raiff said. Private clients spend $45,000 on the low end and upwards of $150,000 to get in and out of the Super Bowl, depending on the aircraft and where they’re flying from. To bypass the air traffic and security delays, some private clients opt to fly into a different location such as Napa and spend a couple days there before going to the game, Raiff said.
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