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. Five Senses

    November 21 @ 11:00 am - 11:30 pm
    November 21, 2017  |  11:00 am - 11:30 pm
    Port Richmond Library
    Get ready for some ooey gooey family fun in this new five-session workshop! A family program designed for preschool children and their caregivers, these sessions will be a hands-on exploration of the five senses hearing, touch, smell, taste and sight.
  2. Preschool Time & Phun with Phonetics

    November 21 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
    November 21, 2017  |  4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
    New Dorp Library
    Enjoy books, finger plays, action rhymes and a simple craft. For ages two and a half to five years and caregiver. After craft head over to community room to play games with your child to develop new words.
  3. NYRR Open Run

    November 21 @ 7:00 pm
    November 21, 2017  |  7:00 pm - 7:00 pm
    Silver Lake 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
  4. It’s My Park at Northerleigh Park

    November 22 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
    November 22, 2017  |  8:00 am - 5:00 pm
    Northerleigh Park
    This It’s My Park season, please join Westerleigh Parks Coalition to clean and beautify Northerleigh Park. We look forward to cleaning up the park with you!
  5. Clay Day

    November 22 @ 1:30 pm
    November 22, 2017  |  1:30 pm - 1:30 pm
    SI Children's Museum
    Satisfy a “knead” by working with some air-dry clay and create a tactile piece.
  6. Science Time

    November 22 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
    November 22, 2017  |  2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
    SI Children's Museum
    Join us for this daily program on problem solving, inquiry and creative thinking. Activities include meetings animals from our Bugs exhibit, playing with solar cars, solving puzzle and games or building structures. Time is subject to change each day
  7. Children Coloring Time

    November 22 @ 3:00 pm
    November 22, 2017  |  3:00 pm - 3:00 pm
    South Beach Library
  8. Picture Book Time

    November 22 @ 4:00 pm
    November 22, 2017  |  4:00 pm - 4:00 pm
    New Dorp Library
    Enjoy hearing books read aloud, finger plays, action rhymes, and coloring.
  9. Teen Time

    November 22 @ 4:00 pm
    November 22, 2017  |  4:00 pm - 4:00 pm
    South Beach Library
  10. Story Time

    November 22 @ 4:00 pm - 4:30 pm
    November 22, 2017  |  4:00 pm - 4:30 pm
    SI Children's Museum
    Join our staff each day to share and listen to a story related to this months theme, the Letter T. Books about Time, Tortoises,Thanksgiving and other fun themes. TIME SUBJECT TO CHANGE, check by calling the Museum for daily details.