NC State

Flyover group grounded at NC State

Jim Kilpatrick poses with a Yakovlev 52 trainer.
Jim Kilpatrick poses with a Yakovlev 52 trainer. Courtesy of the Bandit Flight Team

A crop duster with an ad for processed pork made a pre-game flight near N.C. State’s Carter-Finley Stadium on Saturday, but a local flight group did not get to do its regular pre-game flyover.

The Federal Aviation Administration put a temporary stop to stadium flyovers last week. Jim Kilpatrick, a former Air Force fighter pilot who lives in Cary, got a call from the FAA on Saturday, about two hours before kickoff as his civilian group, the Bandit Flight Team, was about to prepare for a flyover.

The Bandit team, which usually consists of between four to six Warbird and CV-8 planes, had flown over the stadium before every home game this season and all eight in 2013 before being grounded Saturday.

The aerial advertisement proclaiming the return of the McRib made it out before the Wolfpack’s 56-23 home loss to Georgia Tech. Kilpatrick said he hopes the Bandit Flight Team will return next season.

“We’re very serious about what we do and we understand safety,” said Kilpatrick, 68, who flew 257 missions during the Vietnam War and is a retired commercial airline captain.

Kilpatrick said the Bandits fill a void since the military put a moratorium on flyovers for athletic events in 2009. Kilpatrick’s eclectic group, which includes an N.C. State professor, a dentist, a retired executive and a salesman, usually flies out of an airport in Sanford on game days.

They have been doing pregame flyovers for four years, he said, mostly at N.C. State games and other local events.

“We’re all State fans,” Kilpatrick said. “It just seemed to make sense.”

The problem, Kilpatrick said, is other groups all over the country saw the same void and started to get in the flyover business. Kilpatrick said the FAA wants to establish standards for future flyovers at athletic events.

There were 49 planes involved in a flyover of an NFL game in Kansas City last season. Kilpatrick said he understood why the FAA would want to set guidelines.

Kilpatrick said the Bandits were scheduled to fly over for Saturday’s home finale against Wake Forest but that’s not going to happen. He hopes the group will be able to resume the flyovers next season.

There is one thing Kilpatrick might do Saturday instead – go to the game. Because he’s usually over the stadium, not in it, he doesn’t get to go to the games.

“Our families go but we’re usually not back from the airport until after halftime so we miss the games,” Kilpatrick said. “I might go to this game.”