Airspace over White Sands Missile Range, the largest restricted airspace in the U.S. controlled by the Department of Defense, will partially open up in support of Super Bowl XLIX.
At the request of the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA, WSMR will release part of its airspace to the FAA to accommodate an expected increase of commercial and general aviation traffic flying to and from Phoenix, Arizona Feb. 1-2.
“Being good stewards of the airspace, WSMR gives 23,000 feet Mean Sea Level (MSL) and above if we are not using it,” said a WSMR Range Operations spokesperson.
The airspace will be released to the FAA the day of and the day after the Super Bowl to save travelers time and money, and most important, increase the expeditious flow of air traffic in and out of the area.
According to the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport website, the airport is expecting its busiest day with a 60 percent increase in traffic and about 180,000 passengers and 1,600 takeoffs and landings the day after the game.
Airspace over WSMR and Phoenix both fall within the FAA Albuquerque Air Route Traffic Control Center area of responsibility. According to Range Operations, WSMR works with the FAA continuously to execute the installation’s mission in the restricted areas.
This is not the first time WSMR supports air traffic en route to the Super Bowl. The FAA also requested a release of airspace a few years ago when the Super Bowl was in Dallas, Texas.
WSMR also participates in the Holiday Airspace Release Program (HARP) where the installation will release non-essential airspace to the FAA to gain more efficiency during peak holiday travel periods.
The program allows the installation to assess mission requirements and determine if airspace is available for release. The airspace is subject to recall for emergencies and national security purposes.
WSMR is the largest overland military test range in the U.S. occupying about 3,200 square miles of Southern New Mexico and has control over the airspace in support of the installation’s mission.