MYSTERY WIRE — A low-flying helicopter will measure radiation levels over the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday in advance of one of America’s biggest New Year’s Eve parties.
The National Nuclear Security Administration routinely measures radiation levels before big public events, setting a “baseline” to help them easily detect spikes in radiation levels later. The helicopter will be back in the skies on Tuesday, New Year’s Eve.
Officials expect 400,000 people at New Year’s Eve events around Las Vegas, and most of them will be on the Strip.
NNSA spokesman Michael Padilla said the equipment on the twin-engine Bell 412 helicopter will record naturally occurring radiation levels on Sunday. The helicopter is part of the NNSA’s Remote Sensing Laboratory Aerial Measuring System at Nellis Air Force Base.
The helicopter will fly in a grid pattern over the Strip and surrounding areas. It will be as low as 150 feet at times, and it will make passes at 80 mph. The flyovers will occur only in daylight hours.
NNSA, which is under the Department of Energy, recently received new radiation sensing equipment, but those sensors are aboard new fixed-wing aircraft that are not part of the Strip survey this week.
The DOE notifies the public in advance of surveys like this so everyone is aware of the low-flying aircraft in advance. NNSA performs similar operations around the country at political conventions, presidential inaugurations, the Super Bowl and other major events.