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Air Force lifts limits on stadium flyovers

Three F-16 Fighting Falcons from Edwards Air Force Base fly past Dodger Stadium after a ceremonial flyover for Game Two of the World Series, Oct. 25, 2017. (CHRISTOPHER OKULA/U.S. AIR FORCE)

Sports fans are likely to see more stadium flyovers this year as the Air Force emerges from a cash crunch and looks to boost recruiting.

The Air Force’s “2018 Aerial Events Policy” removes limits on flyovers at NFL and MLB games and allows for more flyovers at college and other sports events.

The flyovers had been curtailed because of a Defense Department spending cap that forced units to reduce the amount of time military planes spend in the air.

The cap was loosed in February — good news for recruiters who face a tough job amid a chronic pilot shortage and stiff competition from a booming private sector.

It’s unclear how much of a boost the flyovers give recruiters. However, recruiting leads increase significantly at air shows where there are Air Force demonstration teams or flyovers, Air Force spokeswoman Jennifer Bentley told Stars and Stripes in an email Friday.

“Flyovers are a way for the U.S. Air Force to showcase the capabilities of our aircraft while at the same time inspire a future generation,” she said. “We are increasing the number of events eligible for support to assist with recruiting efforts and in telling the Air Force story.”

Up to four aircraft at a time will be allowed to participate in each flyover, and the Air Force has abolished limits on the number of aircraft and equipment displays that it can set up on the ground, according to the new rules.

The Air Force approves about a third of the flyover requests it gets and performs close to 1,000 each year, including air shows, sports fixtures and events in support of patriotic holidays, Bentley said.

The flyovers don’t cost the taxpayer since they’re part of training missions, she said. Sometimes a flyover involves 10 minutes of a 12-hour mission.

The Air Force sets the rules based on event schedules and what commanders can support, Bentley said.

“Just because we increase the eligible number of events doesn’t mean that units will be able to support,” she said. “All flyovers are done on a volunteer basis.”

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© 2018 the Stars and Stripes

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.