Buzzing the Stadium
I got a little bored during the third quarter of the Penn State-Syracuse game this afternoon, so I decided to hop on a state police helicopter and go for a ride.
OK, that’s not exactly how it happened.
What happened was more like this: I’d been thinking that going along in the police helicopter while they’re monitoring game-day traffic might make interesting fodder for my column in our next issue. So earlier this week I called Annemarie Mountz ’84, manager of the news bureau in Public Information, because I remembered she had done something similar last year. (You can see her photos from that trip here. Note that she had gorgeous blue skies and sunshine for her ride, while today was cloudy and overcast. Not that I’m jealous or anything.)
Anyway, Annemarie put me in touch with Clifford Lutz ’75, who is assistant chief of University Police Services. He’s the guy who coordinates the game-day police operations, so he made arrangements for the state police to take me up.
I got to the stadium by 9:45 a.m., as instructed, but the helicopter wasn’t there yet—it had been diverted to an emergency in DuBois. So I hung around a while, went over to visit Paul Frankhouser’s famous tailgate, and strolled some of the other tailgates.
Eventually I called Asst. Chief Lutz (who I’m told spends the day on top of the press box roof) and he said it could be a while; he’d call me. So I went inside the stadium and joined some friends who happened to have an extra ticket today.
I saw most of the first half and part of the third quarter, while noting with dismay that it’s next to impossible to get cell phone service inside the stadium. That’s because 110,000 other people are texting and making calls and sending photos. I had visions of going home after the game and finding out that I missed the helicopter ride because they couldn’t reach me by phone.
And then partway through the third quarter I got a text message from Asst. Chief Lutz:
Ready to go in about 15?
So I jumped out of my seat, said goodbye to my friends, and hustled down to the grassy area near Jeffrey Field where the helicopters land. I met the two very nice state troopers who were piloting the thing, they gave me some instructions, and up we went.
I got a great aerial tour of campus, took 274 photos in approximately 20 minutes, learned a bit about what the state police helicopter detail does, and pretty much didn’t want it to end. (I never did get to see how they monitor traffic … maybe another time.)
Oh, and contrary to the title of this blog entry, we did not buzz the stadium—the state police really prefer not to fly directly over the stadium when the game is in progress. But they did take me close enough for some good photos.
By the way, I got to fly with my door open. Makes for better photos that way—and the exhilaration of having nothing but air between you all the sights can’t be beat.
I’ll have more to say about the whole experience in my column for our November-December issue. Unless I quit my job between now and then and go to helicopter-pilot school or something….
Tina Hay, editor
Entry filed under: Penn State football, University Park campus. Tags: Annemarie Mountz, Beaver Stadium, Clifford Lutz, helicopter, helicopter ride-along, Paul Frankhouser, Penn State-Syracuse, state police ride-along, tailgating.