Helicopter company gets NASCAR waiver, will still lose money

Helicopters will be flying to and from the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday.

But there won’t be as many passengers on them as originally planned.

The company that transports passengers to the speedway has received a waiver it sought to fly just before and after Sunday’s NASCAR race, but it will still lose business because of the regulations adopted to thwart terrorists.

Representatives of Maverick Helicopters received a waiver from regulations restricting pilots from flying near stadiums within an hour of the start of an event through an hour after it ends.

But because the Transportation Security Administration won’t be able to screen passengers before flights, Maverick will be allowed to transport only NASCAR officials, driver teams and track employees who already have been vetted during those prerace and postrace time frames.

The Homeland Security regulation is an effort to prevent a terrorist from killing or injuring thousands of people packed into a stadium for a sporting event. The regulation applies to events with 30,000 or more people in attendance and specifically applies to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.

More than 100,000 people are expected to attend Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt 400 race.

Maverick, the exclusive helicopter transportation provider for the speedway, had planned to fly hundreds of race fans to and from the track for $500 per round-trip.

The service appeals to fans who don’t want to sit in traffic on Interstate 15 and Las Vegas Boulevard, the designated routes to the track, and can afford the tickets.

But when Maverick learned of a Federal Aviation Administration notice to airmen posting revised Homeland Security policies, the company discovered it could not fly to the heliport just south of the track an hour before the race begins at 12:30 p.m., and that departures after the race ends could not begin until an hour after the checkered flag is waved.

When Maverick notified passengers schedule to fly during that time frame, an undisclosed number of them canceled their reservations.

Bryan Kroten, Maverick’s vice president of marketing, didn’t say how many reservations were canceled, but said there would be “substantially fewer passengers flying than in previous years."

Maverick has flown the 10-minute flights between its terminal at McCarran International Airport and the track heliport since the first NASCAR race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 1998.

When Maverick officials determined they needed a waiver and the race date was fast approaching, they reached out to Nevada’s congressional delegation to try to expedite the process.

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., offered to help and was confident that the company would get the waiver. Now, she’ll work to resolve the issues that are keeping Maverick from transporting passengers that need TSA screening.

“Maverick provides an important service to tourists from around the world who visit Las Vegas each year," Titus said in a statement. “I will continue to work with the FAA, TSA and Maverick to try and resolve the waiver issues prior to the next big event." Las Vegas Review Journal

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