The thunderous sound a helicopter makes as it flies over your house is hard not to notice. But why would a helicopter be flying over your house anyway?

Well, the most common reason why helicopters might be flying over your house is either because your residential property is over a military flight path, or law enforcement has a good reason to do so.

However, as there are many types of helicopters, this means that they are used in all sorts of capacities besides military and law enforcement, so a helicopter may be flying over your house for another reason.

Military

From the U.S. Air Force and Army to the National Guard and Navy, helicopters have an important role to play in all major military branches.

Military Helicopter Flying Over Houses
Military Helicopter Flying Over Houses

Some of these military branches may have bases that are located in an area that is near your house. Helicopters might therefore need to fly over your house during training operations and to get back to base.

Police

There are several reasons why you might notice a police helicopter flying over your house.

Police helicopters play a very important role in law enforcement and have the unique advantage of being able to track the movement of suspects thanks to being equipped with thermal imaging equipment and spotlights, as well as being able to survey a large area.

Violent crimes in progress, pursuits, property crimes, traffic stops, and perimeters are the most common reasons why you might hear a helicopter flying overhead.

LAPD Police Helicopter Circling
A LAPD Police Helicopter Circling

Police helicopters also come in handy when there is a large public gathering taking place and the department wants to be able to better monitor everything that is going on.

Search and rescue operations are another common reason why you might see and hear a helicopter flying over residential areas.

Civilian

It’s also possible that a civilian helicopter is flying over your house. This could be for several reasons, as helicopters are used in dozens of industries.

Sikorsky S-76 Flying Over Houses
The Sikorsky S-76 is commonly used in civil aviation

This might include the media, healthcare, agriculture, as a personal pilot for executives or celebrities, flight instruction, and more.

How to Find Out Why a Helicopter Is Flying Over Your House

There is a very useful app called Citizen that tells you why a helicopter might be flying over your house.

The company monitors data from 911 calls 24/7 and will provide details about whatever the helicopter happens to be investigating in your area.

So while you might not be able to do much about the noise, at least you can find out why a helicopter is annoyingly flying overhead.

How Low is a Helicopter Allowed to Fly?

According to FAR 91.119, which is the relevant regulation that sets out the minimum safe altitudes allowed for flight, except when necessary for takeoff or landing, a helicopter is legally able to fly:

  • Over congested areas – Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open-air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.
  • Over other than congested areas – An altitude of 500 feet above the surface except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In that case, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.

In other words, in a congested area, a helicopter is not allowed to fly any lower than 1,000 feet over the highest obstacle.

In a sparsely populated area, a helicopter is not allowed to fly any lower than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure including your house.

However, note that FAR 91.119 also states that the “helicopter’s increased use by law enforcement and emergency medical service agencies requires added flexibility.”

Therefore, police helicopters are allowed to fly at lower altitudes when deemed necessary.

Military aircraft operations are not subject to the same FAA regulations, which means they can also fly at lower altitudes.

Can You Report a Helicopter For Flying Over Your House?

If you want to report a helicopter for flying too low over your house, you can contact your local FSDO (Flight Standards District Office), which serves as local representatives of the FAA.

As part of their investigation, they will check flight records with air traffic control information, and whether there have been other sightings.

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