Why Are Helicopters Flying Over My House?

One of the most popular posts I get tagged in on Facebook and Twitter is,

“Police helicopters are over my neighborhood. Mike, do you know why?”

To the average citizen, the first thing that comes to mind is that the police are looking for a suspect involved in a serious crime. Although that is very possible, it is not always the reason why they are flying overhead.

The New York City Police Department Aviation Unit is one of the first law enforcement aviation units. The unit was established in 1929 and is still stationed at its original home at the Floyd Bennett Air Field in Brooklyn. It was first established to address the enormous amount of “Barnstormers” that had descended on the city with performing stunts and offering rides.

The NYPD Aviation Unit can get from their base at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn to the top of the Bronx in just minutes. The helicopters are equipped for rescues on land and sea, and the pilots utilize top of the line technology in keeping New York City safe. They truly are the NYPD eyes in the sky.

The Unit routinely conducts patrols across the city. They are often already in the air when they are requested by precinct personnel. The NYPD helicopters are used for countless operations and services.

The Aviation Unit has adjusted to a broader role, which includes counter-terrorism operations. The members conduct daily assessments of the bridges and other critical infrastructure throughout the city.

They search for missing persons classified as a “special category.” These include missing elderly with significant health issues, and young children that do not appear to be runaways.

The helicopters are used to conduct suspect searches, as well. They assist and guide police units on the ground to apprehend suspects. They also assist local precincts in addressing ongoing community concerns and crime patterns by surveying the landscape.

Additionally, the eye in the sky is used to monitor traffic, assist with dignitary protection, but one of the most prolific uses is for water rescues.

During water rescues they transport NYPD Harbor Unit divers, deploy ropes for repelling and assist other agencies during operations.

During a search the NYPD Helicopter may sometimes appear to be a distance away from the area being searched. This gives the crew the ability to scan a larger area, especially if the incident is in the water.

The NYPD Helicopters do not necessarily need to utilize a searchlight at night. The helicopters are now equipped with modern technology that includes infrared systems that help locate suspects or persons in need of assistance, such as in locating a person in the water.

The NYPD Aviation Air and Sea Rescue unit has participated in more water rescue missions since the United States Coast Guard reassigned their helicopter units from the metro area. The nearest Coast Guard units respond from Cape Cod, MA or Atlantic City, NJ.

Each Air and Sea Rescue Helicopter is staffed with two pilots, a crew chief, and two Police Officer Scuba unit divers. The unit is staffed 24 hours a day, 7days a week, ready for deployment at a moment’s notice, covering up to a 60-mile radius around New York City.

This video depicts some of the operations the NYPD Aviation Unit is deployed for on a daily basis:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vakofaAd4Lc

By Community Education Council 31 President Michael Reilly

Posted in Featured Articles


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  1. Stargazing in Great Kills

    April 21 @ 8:30 pm - 11:00 pm
    April 21, 2018  |  8:30 pm - 11:00 pm
    Great Kills Park
    Spring Astronomy Day. Go stargazing with the S.I. Amateur Astronomer’s Association. Inclement weather will cancel this program.
  2. NYRR Open Run

    April 22 @ 9:00 am - 10:00 am
    April 22, 2018  |  9:00 am - 10:00 am
    Conference House Park
    Participants are encouraged to arrive 15 minutes before the start of the run and to leave their valuables at home – bag check is not provided. No need to do anything before the run, just show up. Open to all
  3. St. George Day

    April 22 @ 11:00 am - 5:00 pm
    April 22, 2018  |  11:00 am - 5:00 pm
    Tompkinsville Park
    Earth Day & Arts Festival celebrating community….and dragons! This free, North Shore event will include kids’ activities, family oriented fun, outdoor art installations, live music, street performance, crafts, and Earth Day demonstrations. Click here to learn more!
  4. Earth Day: Citizen Science Fair at Greenbelt Nature Center

    April 22 @ 11:00 am
    April 22, 2018  |  11:00 am - 11:00 am
    Greenbelt Nature Center
    Citizen Science projects are programs in which ordinary citizens volunteer to work to help scientists to answer real-world questions. Join us for an informative session to find out what projects are happening locally, and learn how you can become a
  5. Earth Day at the Zoo

    April 22 @ 12:00 pm - 3:00 pm
    April 22, 2018  |  12:00 pm - 3:00 pm
    Staten Island Zoo
    Explore the different ecosystems that make up our amazing planet with hands-on education stations, eco-crafts throughout the zoo, and scheduled tours of our rainforest, African savannah, North American Aviary and desert habitats. Meet animals from all over the world and
  6. Weekend Art Studio

    April 22 @ 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm
    April 22, 2018  |  1:00 pm - 4:00 pm
    SI Children's Museum
  7. Earth Day: Senses Walk

    April 22 @ 1:00 pm
    April 22, 2018  |  1:00 pm - 1:00 pm
    Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex
    Discover nature by using your senses with the Rangers on this nature walk.
  8. Historic Richmond Town’s Sensory Sundays

    April 22 @ 1:30 pm - 4:00 pm
    April 22, 2018  |  1:30 pm - 4:00 pm
    Historic Richmond Town
    This new program broadens the site’s accessibility and enhances the visitor experience for people on the Autism Spectrum. The Grace Foundation is partnering with HRT’s historical interpreters as co-tour leaders for this special series of sensory tours.
  9. Joys of Composting

    April 22 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
    April 22, 2018  |  2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
    SI Children's Museum
    Don’t toss out your old food scraps! Discover how our planet benefits from composting in this special Earth Day workshop. Sponsored by Con Edison At 2pm & 3pm
  10. Richmond County Orchestra Celebrates Motown

    April 22 @ 3:00 pm
    April 22, 2018  |  3:00 pm - 3:00 pm
    The Great Hall at Snug Harbor
    Richmond County Orchestra (RCO) is celebrating Motown music with a Side-By-Side production with Curtis High School band members on Sunday, April 22 at 3 p.m. at the Music Hall at Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden. RCO, in collaboration