How low should you go?

March 24, 2011 by Mike Collins

Not too low, four Air Force T-38 pilots found out after a fly-by before a University of Iowa football game on Nov. 20, 2010. Following an investigation, the pilots were disciplined for flying too low and too fast, and the lead pilot will leave the Air Force, according to the Iowa City Press-Citizen.

How fast is too fast? Faster than 300 kts–and maybe closer to 400–below 10,000 feet msl, before the game and during a practice flight the day before.

How low is too low? The jets reportedly cleared a scoreboard by 58 feet. Radar put the flight at 176 feet agl, just 16 feet higher than the stadium’s press box.

The report noted that the fans inside the stadium enjoyed the flyover, and a number of YouTube videos appear to confirm this. It’s not clear how many fans’ ears are still ringing from the experience, however.

4 Responses to “How low should you go?”

  1. Grant Says:

    I was there, they were low but it was impressive.

  2. Tom Says:

    As a military aviator, I’ve done several event fly overs and could only shake my head at the lack of professionalism shown in this one. The flight lead certainly deserved to lose his wings for an egregious breach of flight discipline and callous disregard of safety for his flight and the spectators.

  3. Rodney Says:

    Well……….the best you can do is tie the record for lowest pass.

  4. veryhrm Says:

    To me this seems like a total overreaction by the AF and indirectly a waste of my tax dollars. We’re talking 7 figure loss unless the Maj. was planning to separate anyway.

    We’re not talking about some kid doing donuts in a mall parking lot here. We’re talking about an officer probably in his 30s with thousands of hours of experience doing a special operation.

    a) Overall the pilot made a good impression on the crowd and thus represented the AF well and aviation in general well. Mission Accomplished.

    b) The speed limit thing is so that aircraft have time (theoretically) to see each other. Clearly in this case he was in contact with controllers and i’m guessing was only at high speed for a short while over the stadium. Rules and standards are important, but so is their INTELLIGENT enforcement, not enforcement for it’s own sake.

    c) The proper response would have been for the CO to call him in and say “Dude, don’t do that again.” if this was part of some larger pattern of bad decision making etc then sure ground him, but if that’s the case then why is he a flight instructor and the flight lead anyway ?

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