Four military jets gave the Carolina Panthers an unexpected and close flyover during Monday’s practice.
The jets, A-10 “Warthog” fighter planes, buzzed the practice fields at a very low altitude and then Bank of America Stadium before disappearing.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the pilots received permission from FAA air traffic controllers to fly over the stadium as they departed from Charlotte Douglas Airport at 11:35 a.m. en route to Valdosta, Georgia.
“An FAA employee incorrectly told an official at Charlotte Douglas International Airport that the flight was a practice flyover of the stadium,” the FAA said in a statement to ESPN.com.
A spokesperson for Charlotte Douglas Airport said earlier in the day that, according to the air traffic control tower, the jets were making a practice run for a game flyover. The FAA continues to look into the matter.
The scene brought to mind images of the movie “Top Gun,” when the character Maverick played by Tom Cruise buzzed tower of an aircraft carrier tower, getting so close that the controller spilled his coffee from the vibration.
The A-10s were so low on Monday that team president Danny Morrison jokingly said, “I thought they were going to fly into my office.”
Running back Fozzy Whittaker said it caught everybody off guard initially.
“It was a little scary at first because we didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “We could just hear the plane (he makes the sound of jets) coming on by.
“But it was kind of cool to see, as long as it wasn’t an emergency.”
The organization had no idea the flyover was coming, according to team officials. Carolina coach Ron Rivera, who grew up in a military family, said it surprised everyone.
In the same breath he called it “pretty awesome,” and he liked that the pilots gave a “wing wave” as they passed.