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Titans flyover now subject of a 'pending investigation,' FAA says

Titans Flyover Cockpit View 2.png
Posted at 5:10 PM, Nov 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-01 18:06:09-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Federal Aviation Administration has signaled an intensified interest in a dramatic helicopter flyover two weeks ago at Nissan Stadium, now describing the incident as the focus of a "pending investigation."

That flyover — involving four combat helicopters from the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division — came right before the beginning of the Saints-Titans game on Nov. 14.

"We do not comment on pending investigations," the FAA said in response to NewsChannel 5's questions about the flyover.

Related story: Dramatic - or dangerous? Flyover at Titans game draws scrutiny
Related story: U.S. Army launches 'commander's inquiry' into dramatic Titans flyover

The Tennessee Titans insist that — despite how it may have looked on video — there were no cables stretched across the top of Nissan Stadium when four Army helicopters flew through there two weeks ago.

Despite that, questions still persist about whether that flyover was even legal.

While a video posted by the 101st back in January shows a normal flyover at a Titans game — Nissan Stadium visible well below the view from a chopper — the recent demonstration was decidedly different.

As video from the cockpit of one of those helicopters showed, the flyover became a fly-through — right through the middle of the stadium.

Other video shows the helicopters rising up out of the stadium.

A Tale of Two Flyovers:

Raising concerns were some videos that appeared to show the choppers passing just beneath some sort of cable.

The Titans said it was actually cables used to hold the field goal nets.

As viewed from Sky 5, those cables are connected to the bottom of the top deck, which means the Army helicopters would have flown above them.

Still, retired aviation safety inspector Larry Williams told NewsChannel 5 Investigates, the helicopters should have been well above the stadium - not flying through it.

"They weren't going too fast, but they got way too low," Williams said.

FAA rules generally require such military flyovers to be 1,000 feet above the highest object.

In fact, a NewsChannel 5 viewer provided photos from the Friday before the game that, the viewer said, shows the pilots were actually practicing flying above the stadium as the rules require.

Still, the military's idea of what is safe for such flyovers isn't always shared by everyone.

A flyover at the first game for what was then the Tennessee Oilers at Vanderbilt set off a clash between the FAA and the Marines - after the squadron came in too low and too fast.

"It took quite a while for them to respond and the response was, 'We had to violate the regulations to complete the mission,'" Larry Williams recalled.

"They admitted they broke the regulations, but they did it anyway."

Two incidents during the 2000 season — one involving a parachute team, another involving a B-1 bomber — also sparked a another series of clashes.

"Rules are made because pilots have limitations, and those limitations can cause tragedies," retired Navy Admiral Eugene Carroll told NewsChannel 5 Investigates in 2001.

But for many fans, the rules don't matter as long as the show is good.

The FAA and the 101st have previously said their people are talking about what happened.

Even though the FAA sets the rules for such flyovers, if the military pilots decided to break those rules, there's not a thing the FAA can do about it.