The U.S. Navy has been criticised for spending almost half a million dollars of taxpayers’ money on a flyover at the Super Bowl – while the stadium roof was closed.
The estimated $450,000 expense was for four fighter jets that flew from Virginia to Texas and over the retractable roof of Cowboys Stadium in Dallas.
As it was broadcast on screens at the Super Bowl XLV on Sunday, spectators inside the stadium got the same view as people watching the five-second shot at home. The $450,000 figure was based on the aircraft’s operational cost, the time it took pilots in the F-18 jets to fly the mission and a backup plane, according to official data.
But the Navy said the only costs of the trip that it recorded were the fuel expenses of $109,000 and the flyover provided good publicity to help military recruitment. However military aviation expert Jay Miller has questioned the expenditure. He said: ‘What’s the military exercise that’s involved unless you’re trying to pinpoint a target? And a big coliseum’s your target destination?’
But military officials added that the flyover was part of a training exercise that gave pilots the experience with instruments and communication that they needed for missions. ‘These missions are included in the annual operating budget of all branches of the military and they are used as training,’ a spokesman for the U.S. Navy Air Force’s Atlantic division said.
‘There was no additional money provided to us – Congress did not cut us a special cheque to do this flyover. This is considered a training mission whether they were to fly over the Super Bowl or not. ‘I can’t put a specific dollar attributed to what we did on Sunday, but we know we gained some recruiting points.
‘Everyone in the stadium saw it on the big television screen and everyone else saw it their TV. From an exposure standpoint it was huge for us.’ The air force received more than 3,000 requests last year for flyovers and fulfilled 275 of these at sporting events, with more than 600 requests approved in total. Commander Ben Hewlett from Virginia Beach led the Super Bowl overflight. ‘I would hesitate to say there is a need for it,’ he told television station WFAA, which obtained the cost data from Department of Defense tables.
‘There is a desire for it. There’s a want there. There’s a public interest. There’s a lot of Americans that want to look up and say: “We are super proud of our Marines, our sailors out there doing the job every day”.’ Every Super Bowl but one in 1967 has had a flyover, and the National Football League (NFL) in return promises to show the planes and give the Navy exposure.
But this year’s Super Bowl, which saw the Green Bay Packers defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 and attracted a record television audience of 111 million, has been marred in controversy. Fans who were not allocated proper seats at the event – despite paying thousands of dollars for tickets – are suing the NFL and Dallas Cowboys.
And singer Christina Aguilera was forced to apologise after she mixed up the words to the National Anthem, saying she got ‘lost in the moment’ as she sang to kick-off the game.ines, our sailors out there doing the job every day”.’