Why are helicopters hovering over San Francisco?
December 30, 2008 8:44 PM   Subscribe

Why are helicopters hovering over San Francisco? Does anyone have any idea what they were doing? There were at least six, for at least half an hour, spaced wide apart, seemingly just hovering. A friend said they were at it last night, too. They're pretty loud, and the one near me was flying relatively low. I couldn't make out details. Something Mint-related? I can't find anything on the news or Google.
posted by monkeypants to Grab Bag (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
They were news choppers keeping an eye on this evening's protest of Israel's bombing of Gaza. The protest started on Montgomery, and walked up Market to the Civic Center. They did seem like they were circling the Mint (I was standing near the Safeway thinking the same thing).

SFist link
posted by gingerbeer at 8:49 PM on December 30, 2008

They were definitely following the Israel/Gaza protests that were at One Post Plaza last night about 6pm, so I'd figure gingerbeer is correct.
posted by kcm at 9:04 PM on December 30, 2008

If you see a lot of helicopters like that, they are almost always news choppers, and checking the TV channels' websites for their "live coverage" is usually a good way to figure out what they're filming. For example, KTVU.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:09 PM on December 30, 2008

I noticed six of them yesterday around 6-7 a.m. hovering over my apartment (Western Addition) and to the East of it. Right now I could see a few from my office window hovering around Civic Center an hour or so ago.

The ones from yesterday were related to a fire near USF, the new ones are related to the protests.
posted by dirty lies at 9:24 PM on December 30, 2008

and the one near me was flying relatively low
that's interesting. the minimum altitude to be maintained at all times in this type of airspace is 500feet. did they go lower?

anyway, hovering for long periods of time means TV choppers and here is a video the CBS folks shot. (that however is not a hover.)

many big-city police departments have a policy against hovering. you need to hover high enough that in the event of an engine failure you can still autorotate (1, 2) safely to the ground and they prefer to be closer to the action, so departments like the LAPD instead do rapid circles at lower altitudes in order to have momentum for a power-off landing.

the SFPD currently has no own active helicopter unit and calls on the CHP for air support when needed, so if you saw a low-flying, fast-moving chopper that kept doing circles that's probably who it was.
posted by krautland at 11:03 AM on December 31, 2008

further reading recommendation for anyone interested in tv chopper work: the adventures of copter chick. she's based in LA, I think.
posted by krautland at 11:26 AM on December 31, 2008

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