Are We Going Crazy or Has Helicopter Activity Increased Drastically Lately?

by Prince Of Petworth March 22, 2017 at 2:45 pm 89 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user John Sonderman

“Dear PoPville,

I live in Logan/Shaw and have noticed a major increase in helicopter overflights during the last several days. Any insight into why would be appreciated….saw several marine one flights in one day over the weekend, for example. The noise pollution has suddenly increased significantly and id like to know whether this is dcpd and/or White House activity.”

Ed. Note: Recently I’ve been getting helicopter inquiries from all over the District, not just Shaw.

  • Moe

    Just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t watching you.

    • Anon

      Hahaha, nice!

  • Anony

    I’ve noticed the same thing while at work in Chinatown

  • Truxton Thomas

    That’s the Mar-a-Lago line.

  • B

    I live in Hillcrest and it’s MADDENING. I get buzzed by choppers from the Marines especially, but also the Coast Guard and other agencies. They fly directly over my house maybe twenty feet above the roof line. This happens every day, dozens and dozens of times. My entire house rattles. It’s one of the worst things about my neighborhood.

    • SassyinDC (formerely)

      Yep–we just moved fromHillcrest after 17 years. This was one of my pet peeves.

    • anon

      as the helicopter crow flies right between the capitol/WH and Andrews AFB

  • Anon

    It’s constant over Mt. P too. I’ve also noticed an uptick at work in Chinatown. The choppers I’ve seen are all White House.

    • INWDC

      I noticed it on a daily basis starting about 2 years ago…and it’s now actually subsided in the Adams Morgan area. Maybe it’s routine flight exercises and they change the flights paths to different parts of the city. When it was happening daily here it was completely maddening….they’d go around in circles for like 15 minutes.

      • Emily

        ….which they did for just now over Mt P.

        • Anon

          I noticed that too! They were following me down the street.

  • LincPark SE

    Ive noticed too.

  • Akb

    Same! I’ve noticed it for the last 6 weeks at least. I live in Logan/Dupont and it’s driving me crazy! They always seem to fly overhead just when my baby has gone down for a nap too.

  • Herewegoagain

    Also observing in Mt P. During Bush 2, it was pretty easy to pick out the flights to Langley, the flights to Bethesda Naval Hospital. Then we figured out that there was a lot more helo traffic when the boss was out of town. Maybe some of the increase is because Trump is away so much?

  • anon

    I was on a 4 hour run around Hains Point/Mt Vernon Trail/etc this weekend (training for a marathon, it sucked) and I watched two pairs circle the city. Pretty sure they are not MPD

  • Otis Gal

    I was going to email you about this! So annoying.

  • FridayGirl

    What time of day are people hearing more helicopters? I live near U Street and saw this on the listserv a week or so ago, but I haven’t noticed any increased activity in the evenings compared to the past 1.5 years I’ve been living there. (There have always been a few helicopters each evening between roughly 5pm-9pm — I assumed they were a mix of police and news helicopters since they are pretty consistent.) Is this a daytime thing?

    • Anon

      The increase is very notable in the morning to midday, but I have noticed at night too. Sunday maybe it was constant for about an hour over Mt. P. I think that coincides with when he was coming back from Mar-a-lago?

      • FridayGirl

        Odd, I was home all day Sunday and didn’t notice that at all. Then again it’s entirely possible that helicopters aren’t very noticeable if they’re several blocks over. I’ll keep my ears peeled.

      • Anon NS

        I haven’t noticed a pattern, but I have noticed a huge uptick. 14/U. Thought it could be that I’m home more now – between jobs. But I guess not.

      • Anonymous

        Sunday night over MtP was MPD. Gunshots near Ingleside and RCP.

  • Jessica

    I’ve noticed same, especially when I head back into the city from Arlington on 395 late afternoon/early evening. I’ve thought to myself how I bet people in other cities would probably freak if they saw low flying helicopters like I do, but I’m so accustomed to it, something could be up and I probably wouldn’t think anything out of the ordinary.

    • ah

      I believe they have to fly low because of the flight path into Reagan National

  • PJL

    Same traffic I’d bet, noticed it in NoMa as well.

  • ke

    I’ve noticed increased activity in the Petworth area too, not sure why. If you’re curious about the helicopters we see over DC, here’s an interesting article. http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/these-elite-military-helicopter-units-fly-washingtons-p-1704260996

  • D good

    There was a copter in stand still mode over 11th and G last night around 7PM sat over that spot for five minutes without moving. not sure I’ve seen that in a while.

  • Cristina

    Yes! Over Rock Creek several times every night

  • AJSE

    I was on the C&O trail in Potomac, MD last night and two flew overhead (looked like Marine One).

  • AWinDC

    Yes, this is totally true. Actually, I was just thinking this because I work at the Georgetown waterfront and was in a meeting in a conference room facing the Potomac and saw at least 5 helicopters in 30 minutes.

  • anon

    They have become relentless and annoying on Capitol Hill on Saturdays. Last Sat a pair of them buzzed my house, repeatedly, for over three hours, just circling back and forth over the area. They are dark blue with a single star on the underside.

    • Steve Parsons

      Those are Air Force helicopters out of Andrews. They are tasked with DOD VIP flights and with evacuation of government officials from DC in a worst-case scenario. They are constantly flying between Andrews and VA (Pentagon, Ft Meyer, Ft Belvoir) and sometimes do practice flights and landings at the Capitol.

      The Tidal Basin, BTW, is helicopter central. I’ve seen Army, Air Force, Marines, MPD, Park Police, USCG, and Customs and Border Protection all flyover within the time it takes to walk one lap of the Tidal Basin. I’ve also seen helicopters from Maryland and VA State Police, and Fairfax and PG County Police as well a various medical helicopters fly over the Tidal Basin. Tourists seem to love it (the think every green helicopter is carrying Trump).

      I personally don’t mind the occasional noise and actually find it to be one of the interesting quirks of living in DC.

  • ClevelandParker

    There’s been a definite increase over Cleveland Park as well at all times of the day/night.

    • UpConn

      I concur.

    • ClePark

      Yeah for sure. I don’t notice during the day since I am usually not around, but in the evening absolutely. I feel like to flightpath changed and they go straight down Connecticut now? It used to be a sweeping path generally over Van Ness and then down the park I think.

      • Cole

        Yep- every evening it seems around Cathedral Heights

  • Anon

    I live in Capitol Hill. While we are used to helicopter activity, it has been out of control since inauguration. I have noticed activity earlier in the morning and later at night than before. I’m not a helicopter expert but it doesn’t seem like DCPD (no spotlights for the most part). It has interrupted my sleep on several occasions. Very annoying.

    • navyard

      I’m in Navy Yard, and we routinely get quite a bit, but I’ve noticed an increase too. I used to really like it because I thought it made those of us who live here unique in that we get to see so many helos. But since the inauguration, I really resent it because I assume the Orange One is riding around up there on his way to/from Mar-a-lago. I have considered that my hatred for certain politicians might be coloring my view.

      But I have definitely noticed that when Chuck Todd comes on TV sunday mornings, it is almost constant. (I have Over-the-Air antenna and the aircraft flutter interferes with the reception, making it almost unwatchable). I know that sounds paranoid, so maybe that’s just when I watch TV, so I noticed it then.

  • Margrave of Mt. Vernon

    Saturday morning/mid afternoon was unusually heavy traffic.

  • erahk

    I don’t believe this is really new. It seems like the frequency of overflights occur in cycles. When I lived in Woodley Park back in the 90’s Mr. Gore would take many frequent trips. Both the President and Veep are accompanied by a dummy or an extra ‘copter for deception. Also, many of the flights are training and I wouldn’t be surprised if some are sight-seeing tours of the city for special dignitaries. Maybe, it’s even the best way the President can ensure his private conversations are not tapped, haha. My mtp house gets rattled all of the time too, and that’s been happening before this Administration. I really taken note of a couple of Osprey fly-overs in the recent past, wow are those intense.

    • Anon NS

      Oh wow I’d love to see an Osprey

      • navyard

        Come down to Bolling. They regularly fly between Bolling and buzzard point. Not sure what they do at Buzzard point, but I see them flying around down there, then they come to Bolling to land.

        • HillBiker

          There’s an MPD helicopter hangar on buzzards point, they roost there when not in use

      • Polly

        Stand in Yards Park in the Navy Yard. You’ll see them flying up and down the Anacostia.

    • Burb dweller

      I saw a couple Ospreys flying in formation over Falls Church a couple weeks ago. FWIW, there has been a noticeable uptick in heli and military plane flights in the ‘burbs as well.

      • Sonya

        My neighbors and I (in Falls Church) were just remarking about that the other day. We are accustomed to being in the Dulles flight path, but the number of low flying helicopters and jets has definitely increased over the last few months. As in the city, sometimes they sound like they are right over our houses. Unnerving at times given the current state of things.

    • Michael Pierce

      I’ve never seen an Osprey, but I grew up in an area where army maneuvers were common and we’d regularly see the massive, loud dual rotor Chinooks.

  • Anon

    My guess is that the new administration prefers helicopter travel to motorcades. I’ve noticed A LOT more helicopter travel in downtown DC.

    • JLG

      Funny- I work near National Cathedral. For the previous 3 years I’ve worked here, I got caught maybe once by a VP motorcade. Since January, I’ve run into 4. Whether that’s due to an actual increase in the number of them, or is just representative of poor planning (motorcade + morning rush = FUN), I couldn’t say.

      And yes, LOTS more helicopter activity around work for me. Frequently they’re low enough that you can see the faces of people onboard.

  • Ward One Resident

    I actually started noticing this about a year ago during the Obama administration. It has definitely gotten much worse in the last 12-18 months, but I don’t think it’s been any worse since Jan. 20. It can be easy to tell what helicopters are what (green/white–Marines; blue/white-MPD; red-Coast Guard; blue/yellow-MedStar there are others too).

    • in rosedale

      Air force has blue UH-1’s with white tops as well which are mostly used to carry high-level government officials, or foreign dignitaries/aids. The DCPD basically has the same color scheme as their cruisers with a base of white accompanied by the weird blue and red stripes that look wavy. Park Police flies the blue and white UH-1. Its rare, but there are also the black with gold tops, those are Army, but they are almost never used in this area to carry the president.

      • I don’t think most of us know what a UH-1 is.

        • erahk0

          You might know it as the Huey helicopter. It’s been around since the 60’s and used extensively during Vietnam.

  • georgetowner

    Mr. Georgetowner and I were just talking about this last night. We were on the terrace of the Kennedy Center and a bunch of helicopters flew by basically at eye level. More flew over while we were walking home after the performance. We’ve definitely noticed a huge increase since January. Feels like a police state!

  • accendo

    I’ve noticed this as well, but truthfully I prefer they use helicopters instead of clogging up the roads with their motorcades as often.

  • in rosedale

    There has absolutely been an uptick in the helicopter activity around the city. It is military too, not police. I live in Northeast right near RFK and am on the flight path right out of JBA. In the last decade that I have lived there, I have never seen this much military aircraft activity. On any given day I would see maybe 1 to 4 (mostly white tops) military helicopters flyover. 4-8 is the average I have noticed in the last 3-4 months. Not solely white-tops too, plenty of military aircraft painted with their standard livery.

  • Angry Parakeet

    I work in a high rise office in Bethesda so I get pretty close views of them – green lower, white top – in pairs, probably 8 times a day. That’s an increase for here.

  • in rosedale

    This is a pretty informative article for anyone interested in some (not all) of the aircraft you see on a regular basis around DC.


  • anon

    No, you are not crazy. It has increased. I live in Columbia Heights and I noticed this because every time a helicopter circles overhead, I lose reception for my television (have an antenna).

  • AJ

    I used to see the SeaKings all the time where i lived, they’d just circle for a lot of it, but haven’t seen them since Obama left so I’m wondering whether they just changed their traffic patterns and fly other routes now?

  • G. Willikers

    16th Street Heights here. There’s definitely been 1-2 every evening for the past 6-8 weeks.

  • Dupont East

    Definitely more over Dupont in the last year. And often over Foggy Bottom during the day. I guess it would make sense if the Senior Officials were using air taxies instead of the motorcades. Still, I saw the VP barreling up 18th Street on Friday evening, flags flying and sirens blaring. Traffic was at a standstill before he got there, so I don’t know why his people thought it was a good idea.

    • Ward One Resident

      Yeah, this is new too, but I’m wondering if it’s a Beach Drive back up thing. Pence seems to be going through Adams Morgan a lot. Biden and Cheney would come down (go up) Cleveland and Connecticut or RCP, but now with evening traffic so backed up on RCP I’m wondering if they’ve decided to stick more to “surface” streets.

  • omc7274

    I have regularly walked and biked into the city from Arlington for a decade, and definitely have noticed more helicopter flyovers along the Potomac River flight path over the past few months. I have also noticed more flyovers by jet fighters. My first instinct was that it was a response to our new President wanting greater displays of military power.

  • L.

    I saw one circling the Jefferson Memorial/Tidal Basin several times on Saturday afternoon. Flyovers are frequent, but I’ve never seen this circling. An official Marine One-type copter several times flew over the basin, hovered in front of Jefferson, then flew south, then circled back up toward the White House, then repeated at least 3-4 times over the 30 minutes or so I was there. I figured the Trumps wanted to take their kids to see the Cherry Blossoms in the most ostentatious and taxpayer-dollar-wasting way possible.

    • in rosedal

      those guys have to be the most dependable pilots in their respective branches since they are often times flying some of the most important people in the area/world. On top of that, DC is a dangerous area over which to fly anything, especially near the potomac with the National Airport air-traffic. They do touch and go’s quite a bit to practice landing on the White House grounds so it may have been connected to that. While it may seem like a waste of tax-payer money, it is a mere drop in the bucket compared to a lot of other military spending and it serves a much more legitimate purpose.

  • Hazel

    I was just talking my coworker about this. I’ve definitely seen lots of activity in Logan Circle/Dupont. Way more then the last 4 years.

  • bruno

    A Hitchcock film with a DC twist…. The Copters (I have also noticed it, in Mt. P.)

  • Nancy

    I’ve been noticing it too. I have a nice view of the capitol dome from my apt. and in the past few months I’ve noticed 4-5 copter lights floating around south of it, but framing it nicely in a triangle around/above it.

  • Kristin

    Just yesterday my family watched 2 Marine Ones circle overhead of Illinois NW, just north of Sherman Circle in Petworth, at least 5 times in a 10 minute period. We assumed it was some kind of training as it kept repeating the same route. Definitely more traffic than usual!

    • navyard

      The aircraft is only called Marine One when the president is on board. So it is not possible to see two at the same time. (sorry to be pedantic).
      It’s actually the call sign…so it moves with the President and is not specific to the Marine aircraft being used. You might just want to say that you “watched 2 Marine white-tops circle overhead…”

  • An Observer

    I work very close to the forward facility for the Marine unit that operates Marine One. They maintain two birds on strip alert at all times, and I’ve noticed a considerable increase in their activity since the inauguration. At first, I assumed they were conducting training as a routine part of the presidential transition, but, if anything, it’s actually gone up since then. My window overlooks the airstrip, so while I don’t have stats, I can offer a subjective but direct and daily observation. So now my best guess is: Trump travels significantly more than Obama did, back and forth to Florida. He probably also gets a kick out of having a helicopter fleet as, essentially, a free toy. (given his fetishization of the military, this probably helps.)

    I’ve also noticed an increase in activity by helicopters in Army livery; in guessing this is related to McMaster’s selection as national security advisor.

  • niceflipflop

    We moved from Kalorama to Silver Spring last fall, in part because of the uptick in Marine One flights overhead during the previous years. I work from home and couldn’t take it anymore. At a certain point, it felt like living in a war zone. The last few weeks have had us feeling like we shouldn’t have bothered. Even up here, it’s been significant lately.

  • C

    Same over downtown Bethesda, and flying lower after –
    Both changes since innauguration.

  • Lisa

    This is true. I live in Thomas Circle and not only are there more, but they fly over MUCH slower. Also, two at a time always…slowly….creeping along.

  • Ex-NoMA guy

    One of the reasons we just left the city was that we got tired of all the flyovers in NoMa.

  • Putty

    Don’t sweat it. It’s just the Russian military on exercises.

  • LCinDC

    I live in Eckington and the helicopter activity has really been driving me crazy lately. Glad (sort of) to know it’s not just me. After reading this post yesterday, I started paying more attention to timing of the activity and it remains all over the place. I tried going to sleep around 10:30 last night and it was going on.

  • FayeH

    There has been so much extra helicopter activity in Brookland since the inauguration that I’m starting to feel like Ray Liotta’s character in “Goodfellas.”

  • Bob Sacamento

    Noticed it this morning in Mt. Pleasant. It felt like I was in some sort of war movie for like 20 minutes. I cant for the life of me understand why they would need to come as far north as Mt. P. Stay downtown please!

  • nw_dc_1988

    I completely agree. Live in Logan and the helicopter traffic has skyrocketed.

  • John

    It was out of control in Mt. Pleasant this morning. What’s going on?

    • Ehdc

      That was a park police chopper – I was wondering about that, too!

      I used to imagine the regular flyovers were Biden on a joy ride. Alas, not now.

      • Bob Sacamento

        This makes sense. I was pretty confused while eating my cereal haha

  • I have a 1.5 year old boy that is OBSESSED with helicopters and runs to the window every time he hears one. I thought I was just painfully more aware of their existence, but I’m glad to hear there has been an actual increase.

  • MorgaNado

    I have been thinking the same thing. My office overlooks Rock Creek Park, which is, apparently, the flight path. My condo is on DC’s Southwest Waterfront, which is a known helicopter flight path. Many more helicraft, since January.

  • Thought

    I miss Obama.

  • Mdburbs

    There has most definitely been an uptick in military helicopters over Silver Spring since January. We’re near the beltway, in the flight path to JBAB. In the past, we’d see maybe 2-3 military helicopters per week, the occasional marine one sighting, a chinook or osprey every month or so. Always during the day, rarely in the evening. Since January there has been what seems like a patrol going on, all day and into the evening. Mostly it’s Blackhawks, but also what I think might be lakotas – these are painted black and have something mounted on their exterior. Whatever it is, it’s quite disconcerting.

  • MtP

    Kilbourne in Mt. Pleasant was shut down yesterday with tons of police, and a number of helicopters were circling around the neighborhood. I’m not sure if the helicopters and police presence were connected, but I saw this article today:


  • xminustdc

    The March after Obama’s second inauguration was also super helicopter-heavy (I was reminded of this from an “On This Day” Facebook post of mine from that time, complaining about the number of helicopters). I live on N in Logan Circle and they have truly been relentless during the day. I wonder if it’s some kind of training exercise of some kind that happens shortly after the inauguration.


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