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Here’s why the Army says there were four Black Hawk helicopters over Capitol Hill

Black Hawk Pilots with the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, 7th Infantry Division fly above JBLM during a training flight in January 2017 (Image: @16thCAB)

Thursday, just after 8 PM, a low flying squadron of military helicopters roared across Capitol Hill, shaking apartment buildings and rattling a few nerves along the way. Some counted up to four aircraft, flying low and fast and loud. Thanks to smart phone apps, a few identified the choppers as UH-60 Black Hawks.

No, the anarchist jurisdiction of Seattle hadn’t finally gone too far.

“We have 400 pilots and 150 craft to fly, sometimes over populated areas. Routine training,” Gary Dangerfield, Chief of External Communications for Joint Base Lewis-McChord, told CHS Friday morning.


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45 miles south of the city’s 750,000 residents, JBLM is the center of nearly constant military training and operations. Be glad you live out of range of the artillery.

“If you live in South Puget Sound, you live in the vicinity of JBLM, a 90,000-acre Army and Air Force joint military installation, established in 1917,” the base’s “NOISE AND DISTURBANCES” page reads. “You may periodically hear noise from routine aircraft and helicopter flights and artillery training. Training generally occurs weekdays, during day and nighttime hours. Weekend training occurs as required.”

Commanders and the pilots can select their targets and destinations based on a variety of factors. Some training, for example, requires operating in busy, urban air like the sky above Seattle. There are also factors like airspace around Sea-Tac and Boeing Field to consider. Sometimes pilots choose areas to simulate other environments. Jets from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, for example, make roaring sorties through the Necklace Valley of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area because it reportedly has features similar to terrain found in Afghanistan.

A 2016 “day/night air assault training” featuring Black Hawks from JBLM (Image: @INDOPACOM)

Dangerfield says U.S. Army helicopters fly in and out of Gray Army Airfield at JBLM for training on base and throughout the Puget Sound region. “All JBLM aviation activities are conducted in accordance with FAA regulations,” the army notes.

The base is home to groups like the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade which includes the assault helicopter of the 2d Battalion and the general support aircraft of the 1st Battalion.

Given the timing of Thursday night’s flight, it’s understandable that the helicopter mission caused a stir. For one, this pass over the city was low and rumbling with the $20 million+ machines powering quickly across Seattle as people were settling in for the evening. The flight also followed a summer of skies busy with surveillance aircraft above the Hill during the large Black Lives Matter protests with King County Sheriff’s Guardian One and the Washington State Patrol’s planes frequently circling the city for hours on end to provide intelligence to police on the ground.

Thursday’s rumbling sortie also happened to come as the stress and angst generated by the night’s final presidential debate was winding down and on a day Seattle announced it was joining New York and Portland in a lawsuit over the White House’s designation of the cities as “anarchist jurisdictions” and threats to withhold federal spending. With some of Donald Trump’s debate words probably still echoing — “There has been nobody tougher on Russia than Donald Trump!” — it’s understandable if a few on Capitol Hill thought they might be under attack.

Dangerfield says the base understands its operations can cause stress. “We’re citizens, too. We understand the concerns,” he said. If it helps, you can report noise or low-flying aircraft, but Dangerfield says the training is a necessary component of operating the base.

To report noise, low-flying aircraft or other disturbances caused by military activity to the JBLM Garrison Public Affairs Office, please submit a noise complaint form, JBLM Form 761:
  • by mail – JBLM Public Affairs Office, Box 339500 MS 14A, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA 98433
  • fax – 253-477-0179
  • email

To report possible damage to personal property suspected from training events at or near JBLM, call 253-477-1878 or 253-477-1877 to file a torte claim.

Comments about noise or other disturbances may be directed to the JBLM Garrison Public Affairs hotline at 253-967-0852 or 253-967-0147. To immediately report nuisance smoke, please call 253-912-2049.

(Image: @INDOPACOM)


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Andrew Taylor
Andrew Taylor
1 month ago

Alas, I have no memory of my August 2000 flight in a JBLM Blackhawk helicopter from the PCT (near the Kendall Katwalk) to Harborview. I’d slipped down steep snow and collided with rocks. I seem to have made a full recovery (you be the judge) thanks to the US Army helicopter crew. So, please don’t be too hard on them.
FWIW the JBLM Blackhawk rescue helicopters were repurposed for combat operations, after September 11th, and rescues are now by Coastguard helicopters from Port Angeles.

Pussy La Hoot
Pussy La Hoot
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Taylor

Glad you’re OK, Andrew!

Dennis
Dennis
1 month ago

These aircraft shook the house. After Trump in Washington DC and federal thugs in Portland how can this be seen as anything other than threatening moves. Lame denials otherwise are not credible. I have lived on Capitol Hill for nearly 60 years. Never have I seen, heard, or heard of such moves. It is scary to think of our military in the service of a wanna be tyrant. Hard to believe that service people will follow this reprobates dictates over the constitution they have sworn to uphold. Vote

louise
louise
1 month ago
Reply to  Dennis

Get a grip.

dennis
dennis
1 month ago
Reply to  louise

When this thug is gone !

CD Neighbor
CD Neighbor
1 month ago
Reply to  louise

Seriously…. low flying aircraft from one base or another – there are quite a few around here Bremerton, McChord, Whidbey, Fort Lewis, Kitsap…. – are not exactly rare. It’s not like they are out everyday, but maybe once every month or two I notice one/several go over. I highly doubt this particular fly over had anything to do with Trump or protesters… and yes I have voted, no certainly not for Trump (◔_◔)

Pilly
Pilly
1 month ago
Reply to  Dennis

WA is an intensely military state, way more than Oregon. You must know that right? You shld stay away from S. Tacoma.

CD
CD
1 month ago
Reply to  Dennis

I grew up in Tacoma and I have a weekend house still in the South Sound.

I immediately knew what was flying over without looking out the window. It is super normal down there. We’re a hub of military activity and Seattle is actually out of the way of most of it.

Like someone else said, get a grip.

Shawn
Shawn
1 month ago
Reply to  Dennis

Sir, I’m a retired U.S. Army Rotary wing Aviator. I’ve literally flown Chinooks and Blackhawks from locations in Alabama and California and numerous locations in between. I’ve also flown throughout Korea, the Middle East and Europe.
I can assure you that somewhere in the world, 24/7, there are military aircraft, airborne.
The only message that these flights are intended to send use that the U.S. military are constantly training to win the fight against any adversary that threatens us all.

T. Leonard
T. Leonard
1 month ago
Reply to  Shawn

I am with you, and proud of my flight wings and experiences, retired, U. S. Army Aviation…

RT
RT
1 month ago
Reply to  Shawn

Thank you sir !

Just saying...
Just saying...
1 month ago

“Thanks to smart phone apps, a few identified the choppers as UH-60 Black Hawks”

Some people can discern that with their eyes, even if they weren’t in the military.

D. HIPP
D. HIPP
1 month ago

I lived about six miles from Luke AFB on the west end of the metro Phoenix area for years. I got to where I could identify several models of fighter jets, especially F16 as it is one of the largest F16 training bases in the USA. That said, I don’t think anything impressed me as much as the Stealth Bomber doing a slow and low fly over Bank One Ballpark when the AZ Diamondbacks were in the World Series. Man that thing is scary looking.

taylor
taylor
1 month ago

Send more lol

James in the CD
James in the CD
1 month ago
Reply to  taylor

No

Adrian
Adrian
1 month ago

This article reads like one big whine. The people of Capitol Hill are very fragile in this moment. Don’t intimidate us with your military might. Trump must have ordered it to rattle the liberals.

Sit back and enjoy the show! These pilots work FOR you, not against you. Appreciate the fact that we have people and machinery practicing day and night to protect the American people.

Tom
Tom
1 month ago
Reply to  Adrian

Fragile is the conservatives who get their panties in a bunch whenever they feel their $1 trillion a year military-industrial-complex-can-do-no-wrong gets even a little slight. One big whine is complaining about someone kneeling down during the national anthem. What an insult taking a knee is.

I didn’t hear these helicopters but the Blue Angels are a different story. There is a good chance if your president has to experience it a few hours every summer, he would also think they are annoying as fuck.

Steph
Steph
1 month ago

I have in my 25 years of living in Seattle seen many military planes and helicopters fly over or around the city, without concern. To me it’s normal, I’m from north county San Diego where it was practically a daily thing. I get more concerned over the Blue Angels performance than I do the occassional fly over.

Xyphoid
Xyphoid
1 month ago

They could change the machine gun to a money gun and shoot money bullets that float down on lil parachutes. They could put the machine gun in back 8n case war erupts. The money gun might work there as well.