Recently a frifinish asked me why the police helicopter was constantly circling over his residence in the middle of the night. He asked why they didn’t just fly back and also forth or float up high. As a chopper pilot, tbelow are some good reasons why we circle.

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Helicopters use less power to fly at 60 knots in a circle over a area compared to the power required to hover. This permits for longer time on station and also gives the occupants or pilot an entire 360° check out of the scene to film, observe or recon prior to making a method to land.Several of these these may start to make a little sense so now allows look at the details of why helicopters circle quite than execute somepoint else.

Why Do Helicopters Fly or Circle Over My House?

Police & news are the two most common helicopters that may be seen circling over your home. Something on the ground in your vicinity is of interest to the crew and the helicopter is making use of its video camera to film or search the area. Circling enables the incident to remain in see of the crew at all times.When the object in question is stationary, choose a road web traffic accident or a criminal trying to hide the finest way to store that location in see at all times is for the helicopter to circle or orlittle around it.Most police or news pilots will erected an orlittle in between 500ft-1000ft over the object and fly approximately 60 knots(kts) airspeed. This offers an altitude that is high enough to be able to clearly watch the object by eye, while maintaining a safe elevation above the bordering area. This height likewise helps to alleviate the amount of noise world will certainly hear in their house, specifically at night.Since the helicopter has actually a camera placed on its nose or side an excellent majority of the moment the camera operator is the one wanting to see or track the object. To carry out that the pilot will certainly fly the orlittle bit so the camera operator is on the inside of the circle. This helps the video camera operator save the swarm framed through minimal job-related bereason the pilot is able to conveniently store the object in sight by utilizing a mixture of looking outside and also looking at the camera screen.
The Higher The Bank Angle, The Harder The Object Is To View – Source: kitmasterbloke

Why Does A Helicopter Circle Before Landing?

Circling in a helicopter is the best means to view a room from all sides to look at the landing spot. When a helicopter pilot is landing at an unall set location like a basesphere diamond, city park, or also a hole in the trees out in the remote parts of the country, they need to look and assess a number of factors:Wind – Landing into the wind is the desired choice, yet will certainly the approach course in and out of the landing website be clear of objects to facilitate this?Wires – Are tright here wires across or close to the landing spot. Pilots usually look for supporting structures choose poles or towers as wires have the right to be impossible to watch at timesObjects – Trees, towers, frameworks, people, debris. Are any of these in the method throughout strategy, landing, or departure?Sun – Will the glare of the sunlight on the home window obscure vision as soon as approaching to land?Shape – What is the shape of the clear location to land, long and also skinny or wide open? This deserve to dictate the direction of approach to landSlope – Is the ground sloping where the pilot desires to land also. Most helicopters have actually between a 5-10° slope landing limitationLanding Spot – Is the landing spot clear of obstructions, debris, people etc

All of these factors have to be assessed prior to the pilot formulates the ideal arrangement to safely strategy, land also, and decomponent the spot. The most basic means the pilot can perform this is by making use of 2 orbits:High Orlittle bit – Typically 500ft above the spot to look for the major objects, asses wind, and also look at the strategy and also leave pathsLow Orlittle – Usually 100ft – 200ft over the spot for final observations of the specific landing pointA excellent, knowledgeable pilot deserve to execute every one of this in 1-2 orbits while descending to start the technique. Many orbits will certainly be done clockwise as a lot of helicopter pilots sit on the best side of the helicopter. This will certainly provide the pilot the best check out of the entire area.Flying an orlittle additionally helps to views feasible surprise obstacles. Shadows and also sun have the right to really hide objects from up high and also depth perception can be incredibly obscured. By taking the time to circle the landing spot, the pilot gets the finest chance to discover anypoint that might cause them troubles when on last strategy.

Circling Vs Hovering

The one thing that provides helicopters distinctive is that they have the right to hover. They deserve to hover numerous feet off the ground or, if adequate power is available they have the right to float countless feet in the air – So why don’t pilots just float to look at a spot or object?


Hovering deserve to be a great means to check something and the major methods that hovering is offered rather of orbits are:Tall Buildings – When trying to look down right into the street that is surrounded by tall structures a high float is a better alternative. If a helicopter orbits, the surrounding structures can block the check out.By maneuvering the helicopter into the best stationary place it enables the object to be observed quickly.Limited Airarea – When many type of news helicopters favor to cover an incident the pilots deserve to talk to one an additional and also each hold their position. I experienced this happen at Boeing Field near Seattle once 6 news helicopters all sat hovering to the sides of the runmethod when the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner flew in for the first time.By doing this, Air Traffic Control enabled them to obtain closer and also each news channel got a perfectly clear swarm of the strategy and also landing of the plane.


Here are the many common components why flying an orlittle bit at roughly 60 kts airspeed is done in a helicopter:Power Required – Hovering a helicopter needs the most amount of power from the engine/s, particularly as soon as they are around 20ft-60ft over the ground. By flying at 60kts it needs the least amount of power from the engines, thus reducing fuel intake.
A Common Helicopter ‘Power Required Curve’
When the helicopter is at a slow-moving speed the rotor system hregarding produce all the lift just from the engine power. As the helicopter begins to accelerate the major rotor mechanism begins gain a hand from aerodynamics and the power forced to keep the helicopter flying reduces.At 6o knots this is when the power forced to fly is at its lowest. Once the helicopter goes previous this rate, drag on the aircraft begins to need even more power to conquer it and press the helicopter via the air.By flying orbits at 60 knots it permits the helicopter to use the leastern amount of power, which implies the least amount of fuel burn, thus the pilot is able to remain on scene a lot much longer than simply sitting tbelow in a float.

H/V Diagram

The H/V or Height Velocity Diagram is a diagram issued by the helicopter manufacturer that tells the pilot when a helicopter can be landed safely if their engine were to sheight. This diagram is based on elevation over the ground and airspeed.Height and also airrate are the 2 best friends to a pilot in an engine faiattract case and also having actually both are good however what if you only have one…If I have actually shed you, just hang in tright here and I will explain:If the aircraft is low and sluggish when then engine fails then the possibilities of the helicopter making a safe autorotation landing are slim.If the helicopter is low and quick and the engine quits the pilot might be unable to slow the helicopter dvery own in time before it sinks and also contacts the ground.
In the diagram above, to stop these scenarios, the pilot will certainly acceleprice to about 50 knots while remaining 5-10ft above the ground then begin to climb away. By doing this the pilot prevents the red ‘Avoid’ areas.So how does his use to a circling helicopter? One of the questions my friend asked was why not just hover? In the diagram, to hover (0kts) the helicopter would must more than 800 feet high to be able to make a safe autorotation landing, and that’s gave tright here is an open up location pretty close by.By circling roughly at 60 kts the pilot does not need to issue about the H/V Diagram and if the engine were to quit, the finest autorotational speed for the majority of helicopters is 60 kts, which they are currently at. There might also be more chances of finding an open up landing place as the forward rate they have enables them to cover even more distance throughout the glide.

To Finish

The primary reasons why helicopters circle overhead are to burn much less fuel and continue to be on station much longer, offer the occupants the best check out of the scene, and to keep the helicopter in a safe flight condition if the engine were to ever quit.It is also a lot less complicated to fly in a steady orlittle at 60kts than try to preserve a high float without visual references to let the pilot know if they are drifting or changing height.

Additional Reading:

If you found this article interesting and also would prefer to keep reading, I extremely recommend the adhering to articles from my blog:Can Police Helicopters Detect Grow Operations? Worried?!This is What Police Helicopters Actually Do!This Is Why Helicopters Are So Loud! A Pilot Weighs in!Do Helicopter Pilots Wear Parachutes?This is Why a Helicopter MUST Have 2 Rotors, or Does It??
Rick JamesI am an aviation nut! I"m an ATP rated helicopter pilot & former trip instructor with over 3000 hours spanning 3 nations and many kind of different flying tasks. I love aviation and also every little thing about it. I usage these write-ups to pass on cool facts and also indevelopment to you whether you are a pilot or simply love aviation too!If you want to recognize even more around me, just click on my picture!
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Hi, I"m Rick James and I am an aviation nut! I"m an ATP rated helicopter pilot & previous trip instructor with over 3000 hrs covering 3 countries and many type of various flying tasks. This website was produced to assist pass on indevelopment and also understanding of all things aviation!

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