Army launches inquiry into NFL game flyover before Titans-Saints game

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — U.S. Army officials and the Federal Aviation Administration are reviewing a flyover of an NFL game last month in Nashville to determine if military helicopters flew too low over civilians, a violation of aviation regulations.

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That flyover, which involved four combat helicopters from the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division, occurred before the start of the Titans’ home game at Nissan Stadium against the New Orleans Saints on Nov. 14, WTVF reported.

“General reaction, yeah, it was unsafe,” Larry Williams, a retired aviation safety inspector with the FAA, told the television station. “It was very dangerous.”

The 101st Airborne is based at Fort Campbell, a base that sits astride the Kentucky-Tennessee border. The aircraft cruised over the stadium for a pregame flyover, which is not unusual at NFL stadiums. In Tampa, Florida, for example, aircraft from nearby MacDill Air Force Base streak above Raymond James Stadium as the national anthem ends before Buccaneers games.

What concerned officials was how close the helicopters flew in relation to the fans sitting in the upper deck at Nissan Stadium.

On its social media accounts, the Titans posted video from inside the cockpit of one of the helicopters, WTVF reported. Instead of flying over Nissan Stadium, the choppers went through at eye level with fans in the upper decks.

Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Terence Kelley confirmed that the 101st Airborne Division’s commanding general, Maj. Gen. Joseph McGee, “has directed (a) preliminary inquiry into this event,” Army Times reported.

The Nov. 14 flyover was part of a “Salute to Service” promotion, WTVF reported.

The division’s deputy commanding officer for operations, Col. Bernard Harrington, is leading the inquiry, Army Times reported. Harrington is senior to Col. Travis Habhab, who directed the flyover, according to the newspaper.

Williams said he was concerned about a cable that the helicopters passed beneath as they entered the stadium.

“They went under that cable,” Williams told WTVF. “It appeared just a few feet from there. So if they had just gotten off from altitude a few feet, it would have been a disaster.

“I wonder whether they saw the cable before they got there.”