The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) will conduct low-altitude helicopter flights over downtown Tampa and its surrounding areas Monday, Feb. 1, through Wednesday, Feb. 3, to measure naturally occurring background radiation in preparation for Super Bowl LV, which is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 7.
NNSA’s Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST) aircraft conduct these flights as part of standard preparations to protect public health and safety. They are regularly performed prior to major public events, such as presidential inaugurations and high profile athletic competitions.
Local residents may see a twin-engine Bell 412 helicopter, which is equipped with sensitive, state-of-the-art passive radiation sensing technology. The helicopter will fly in a grid pattern over Tampa and its surrounding areas at 150 feet (or higher) above the ground at a speed of approximately 80 mph. Flyovers will occur only during daylight hours and are estimated to take approximately two hours to complete per area. The aircraft measurements will be purely scientific in nature, and no surveillance or other forms of monitoring will occur during these flights.
The aerial surveys are a normal part of security and emergency preparedness activities. By calculating the normal amount of radiation occurring in an area, the NEST team is able to quickly recognize unusual levels before, during, or after an event. DOE/NNSA is making the public aware of the upcoming flights so citizens who see the low-flying aircraft are not alarmed.