Pilots off flight duty as Air Force investigates low-altitude pass over Charlotte, N.C.

One of four A-10 Warthog jets skirts over Bank of America Stadium Monday on Monday.
One of four A-10 Warthog jets skirts over Bank of America Stadium Monday on Monday.

The Air Force pilots who made a low-altitude pass over Bank of America Stadium and uptown Charlotte on Monday have been restricted from flight duties as the military and the Federal Aviation Administration investigate the incident.

The FAA and officials at Georgia’s Moody Air Force Base, where the pilots are stationed, said Monday that they were looking into the flight by four A-10 “Warthog” jets, which startled uptown residents and office workers.

“As professional Airmen we take aviation safety very seriously,” Col. Thomas Kunkel, commander of the 23d Wing, said in a statement Tuesday. “As we look into the circumstances of this incident we are working with the FAA to ensure both civil and military aviation instructions were complied with.”

The base, located near Valdosta, Georgia, said it will provide further updates as they become available.

Charlotte-based air traffic controllers approved the pilots’ request to fly over the Carolina Panthers’ stadium after they departed from Charlotte Douglas International Airport around 11:30 a.m., the FAA has said. The pilots were participating in routine navigation training from Charlotte to Moody.

Under FAA regulations, planes flying over congested areas of a city are required to stay “1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.” An FAA spokesperson said it might be a week or so before the agency has details to release from its investigation, including the altitude the planes flew over uptown.

One uptown office worker on Twitter said the planes flew roughly even with the 42nd floor of the 48-story Duke Energy Center, which is 786 feet tall.

A Charlotte Douglas spokeswoman initially said Monday that the airport had been advised by air traffic controllers that the jets were practicing a flyover of Bank of America Stadium. But the FAA later said that was an erroneous report.

Panthers spokesman Steven Drummond said no stadium flyovers are currently planned for this season, although the team is trying to set one up for the home season opener against the San Francisco 49ers on Sept. 18. In any case, the planes would not be A-10s, he said.

The aircraft that buzzed Charlotte were part of the 74th fighter squadron of the 23rd Wing, based at Moody. They have an “FT” tail marking, which stands for “Flying Tiger.”

Although nicknamed the Warthog, the jets are officially known as the as the A-10 Thunderbolt II. They fly close air support missions in combat and are distinguished by two prominent jet engines and a split tail.

The Air Force had planned to retire the plane, but that move has been put on hold because the A-10 has been useful in attacks on Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria, according to media reports.

Rick Rothacker: 704-358-5170, @rickrothacker