Helicopters before and during Husker game surprise students

Helicopters fly over the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's City Campus on Friday, Nov. 15, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Students spotted several helicopters from three different organizations circling the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus on Friday, Nov. 15, and again at Memorial Stadium during the Nebraska vs. Wisconsin football game on Saturday, Nov. 16.

More helicopters were flying above campus than usual last week as The Nebraska National Guard, Nebraska State Patrol and aerial photographer Doug Prange all happened to be using helicopters.

Two National Guard Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks performed a flyover during Saturday’s football game, and thousands of Husker fans watched awestruck as they flew over Memorial Stadium. 

The National Guard had other helicopters, Eurocopter UH-72 Lakotas, circling the stadium for training purposes during the week, according to Nebraska National Guard Public Affairs Maj. Scott Ingalsbe. Also at the game was Nebraska State Patrol covering traffic updates from above and Prange taking aerial photos.

Ingalsbe said the Lakota helicopters were flying around campus last week on Friday as part of a scheduled training routine for the National Guard. 

The same helicopters were back for training on Saturday and were spotted circling the stadium during the game. Ingalsbe said the pilots gained extra learning experience as they dealt with nearby helicopters around them.

Flyovers are a Nebraska game day tradition, so having the Nebraska National Guard perform a flyover for the team they love most was extremely special, Ingalsbe said.

“There was just that extra thing that [flyovers] kind of adds to the game day atmosphere to have a plane fly over,” Ingalsbe said. “We are proud to represent the National Guard and add what we can to the spirit of the game day atmosphere.”

According to Nebraska State Patrol Public Relations director Cody Thomas, State Patrol helicopters have been flying over Nebraska football games at Memorial Stadium for more than 20 years.

Nebraska State Patrol mans a helicopter that circles Memorial Stadium to get an aerial view during the game. The helicopter holds a pilot and a tactical flight officer who manages the camera. The footage from the cameras will occasionally make its way onto the stadium’s jumbotron to display the aerial view, according to Thomas.

“I think it’s just a cool thing that we’re able to do … with the excitement around a Husker football Saturday, just to be able to provide a perspective to the fans of just the sheer number of people in and around the stadium, it’s a fun perspective to see on game day,” Thomas said.

Apart from the game itself, one of Nebraska State Patrol’s primary tasks is to monitor the traffic on Interstate 180 and downtown Lincoln from above and then relay reports back to the officers, troopers and sheriff deputies on the ground to help with traffic flow, according to Thomas. 

He said it’s important to have helicopters monitoring the area because it’s an opportunity for the troopers and Lincoln police officers to get a perspective they can’t see from the ground and provides them a way to direct traffic in a safe manner.

While Nebraska State Patrol was watching traffic, Prange was busy taking photos above the stadium. Prange has been taking aerial pictures of Nebraska football games since 2003 and has created 18 game day posters of the stadium. With permission to fly from UNL, Prange rents his own helicopter and has a pilot fly while he snaps shots of the stadium.

Prange said he tries to capture different key elements in each picture to create a memorable poster.

“My favorite part is capturing something unique,” he said. “It’s a great view from 1,000 feet watching the crowd in and around the stadium and all the tailgaters. There’s just so much going on downtown on game day.” 

Prange said taking photos is important to him because it allows him to capture something that is special to Nebraska and something every Cornhusker loves so dearly.

“The Nebraska Cornhusker football team is really something special.” Prange said. “I don’t know how many times someone has said, ‘I was there for that game’ then pointing out where they were sitting in the stadium. There’s just something special about having a photo on game day.”