TAMPA — Don't fly. Don't hang glide. Don't parachute. Keep your ultralight in the hangar. Don't decide at the last minute to tow a banner in the airspace over Raymond James Stadium or even set off model rockets.
That's the word from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Tampa police and the Air Force come Super Bowl Sunday.
Anyone who decides to ignore those rules will have, in the words of Scot Winslow of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, "a really bad day."
Air Force fighter jets and border protection helicopters will patrol the airspace all day to intercept any unauthorized craft.
Flights up to 4,000 feet will be restricted within a mile of Raymond James Stadium from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday, expanding to up to 18,000 feet in a 30-mile radius between 4 p.m. until midnight.
The rules will require even blimps to be grounded starting at 4 p.m., said Juan Munoz-Torres, public affairs officer for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
On Wednesday, to prove the point, Customs and Border Protection took media members flying over Tampa and circled above the empty open cup of Raymond James Stadium.
Outside the windows of the noisy helicopter cabin, a small plane flew directly above the stadium, tugging an advertising banner for "Airspace.com."
In the distance, a DirectTV blimp hovered over the Lego-like towers of downtown.
Not far from the stadium, at Tampa International Airport, a Southwest Airlines plane rolled down the runway.
Winslow conceded the proximity of the airport presented a planning dilemma, but after two years of planning, they've run and planned for every possible security threat scenario, he said.
Tampa International Airport's east-west runway will be closed.
"Air space is an integral part of our security plan," said Tampa police Maj. John Bennett, who has coordinated the expansive inter-agency Super Bowl security plan for the past two years.
The guidelines don't apply to public safety or air ambulance craft, military aircraft, regularly scheduled commercial passenger flights or Transportation Security Administration-approved cargo carriers.
Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3383.