One plane has two powerful jet engines with afterburners, flies at almost 2,000 mph, can soar more than 12 miles above the earth, and has 34 air combat victories in Operation Desert Storm.
The other hums along at 150 mph, powered by a six-piston engine and a two-bladed propeller. It can’t get much higher than 3 miles above the ground. It’s more suited to carry your grandma than a gun.
But together, the two planes — the Air National Guard’s F-15 Eagle and the Civil Air Patrol’s Cessna 182 — are the key to safe skies over Super Bowl 50 in California this Sunday.
The Cessnas are acting as the bogeys — intruders in the restricted airspace over the big game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California — as the Air Force fighter jets practice slowing themselves to escort the plodding prop planes out of any place where they might prove a danger to the tens of thousands of fans expected at the Super Bowl.
Practice flights took place last week near Fresno and are scheduled again for Wednesday over Oakland.
“The opportunity to ensure safe skies around Levi’s Stadium is a mission CAP takes very seriously,” Civil Air Patrol National Commander Maj. Gen. Joe Vazquez said in a statement. “Our aircrews are trained to simulate either threat or duress flights that inadvertently or purposely enter into restricted airspace. The Air Force depends on CAP to ensure its readiness in guarding America’s airspace.”
The exercises are not new. The Civil Air Patrol has been helping the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in Super Bowl protection practice for 15 years, the Air Force says.
The Civil Air Patrol is the civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force with about 56,000 volunteer members across the country. It operates a fleet of 5,500 single-engine piston aircraft.
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