Yesterday, the Department of Energy was flying a military helicopter at low altitudes over Boston and the surrounding area as part of an experiment of some type to measure radiation.
I saw one of these aircraft when I driving through Watertown and in fact it passed right over me. It was operating at a very dangerous altitude. Any kind of engine failure would have created a multiple fatality situation. Normally, aircraft do not fly at high speed below 500 feet and when helicopters descend below 500 feet they normally do so cautiously and in an area they know to be safe. Having a large helicopter flying at high speed over a dense city at 100 feet AGL is very dangerous and against FAA regulations.
The type of helicopter was not the civvy type pictured in the news story, it was a Chinook. For NASA to be circulating a photo with a little civvy helicopter and then actually flying around a big Chinook I thought was pretty deceptive on their part.
I have not filed a pilot complaint about this because I assume some kind of special "permission" or exception was created to allow for this dangerous activity. Does anybody know the legal authority involved here and conditions?
BTW, I did not check the NOTAMs and did not get any NOTAMs in my mailbox on this, so if somebody can link the NOTAM that would be useful.
Update: this may have been a medevac flight, with emphasis on the word "may". Apparently, in some cases military helicopters are used for medevac flights to Burlington. However, if it was, the pilot was hot dogging and off the normal routes, both of which are serious regulation violations, but nevertheless I am told some military pilots disregard the rules.