Bird's-Eye Views Open Only to a Few

What’s it like to roam over Washington?

By: Garrett M. Graff

Helicopters buzz over DC all day, zipping up the Potomac, diving past the Tidal Basin, and flying up toward Great Falls.

The airspace over the nation’s capital is among the most restricted in the country, so only a select few medical, police, and military helicopters get a bird’s-eye view of Washington.

The public can get a look at some of the units and aircraft patrolling the region during an open house each spring at Andrews Air Force Base.

In May, about 100,000 Washingtonians trekked to the Andrews flight line to see military hardware up close and to view performances by such precision teams as the Blue Angels and the Canadian Snowbirds.

What’s it like to roam over Washington? Just before the air show, the Air Force’s 1st Helicopter Squadron took The Washingtonian along for a treetop-level ride in one of its blue-and-white Hueys.

Their mission is largely classified, but members shuttle VIPs and take part in evacuation plans for government officials. They spend about 5,200 hours a year flying over the region.