Why is there a helicopter over Denver right now and/or always?

Well, let’s start with this question: What’s the color scheme of the helicopter you’re looking at?
4 min. read
A Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. (Tony Alter/Flickr)

Hello! Here's a question news types get a lot:

"Why is there a helicopter over my city right now?" Let's find out together. 

It's such a common question for us, for law enforcement and even for Denver International Airport, that DIA has a page dedicated to it, reminding people that most helicopter flights in the area have nothing to do with the airport.

So -- why is there a helicopter flying overhead?

Well, the annoying answer is that helicopters are flying machines and so flying over cities is mostly what they do.

But here are the most likely reasons that specific helicopters are flying over Denver:

Medical helicopters

Is the helicopter over Denver red, with a blue stripe and white on the back?

Are you near Denver Health? If so, the helicopter is probably going to or coming from Denver Health.

Denver Health's current preferred air transport provider is North Colorado Med Evac. (They also work with Children's Hospital Colorado and Boulder Community Health.)

Here's what their helicopters look like:

Other medically-inclined helicopters could include the orange-with-yellow-stripes helicopters of Flight For Life Colorado ...

A Flight For Life Colorado helicopter. (Matt Mordfin/Flickr)

... including an blue-and-orange Children's Hospital version of Flight for Life new as of May 2017, specifically designed for transporting children, as the Denver Post reported. From the Post:

"Even the aircraft's tail number -- N127LG -- is a nod to kids. It harks to Psalms 127:3, a Bible verse that calls children a gift from God."

... or lime-green-with-blue-stripes helicopters of AirLife Denver, which services HealthOne hospitals.

An AirLife of Denver medical evacuation helicopter. (Roger G. Meyer, Evans Army Community Hospital Public)
Denver Police Department Air One

Is the helicopter over Denver white with a blue stripe?

Air Unit One. (Denver Police Department)

The helicopter you see could be Air One, the Denver Police Department helicopter. It looks like the photo above, and is sometimes used to pursue suspects with an infrared camera, and is sometimes just flying around.

The Denver Post profiled Air One in 2012.

"In one four-hour shift, the unit responds to as many as 24 calls. On a busy night, an officer on the ground responds to an average of 12 to 15 calls. Since the program was created in July 1998, the air-support unit has assisted in more than 2,200 arrests," the Post reported.

Here's another look at the Denver Police helicopter:

Once, in 2014, Air One made an emergency landing in Washington Park after colliding with a bird.

Military helicopters

Are you looking at a black helicopter over Denver?

A Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. (Tony Alter/Flickr)

Or a helicopter that looks like it could carry a bunch of people?

Sandbags weighing 4,000 pounds each are hooked to an Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopter to repair a broken levee southeast of New Orleans, La., Sept.6, 2008. (Official U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brian Cooper, 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment, Colorado Army National Guard)

You might be looking at Colorado National Guard helicopters. They could be flying around on training exercises. Or to help with national disasters.

Private helicopters

And then there are private helicopter companies. They do everything. If the helicopter you're seeing doesn't fit the descriptions above, it might be a private helicopter for aerial photography or some other kind of mundane mission.

Here's an example of the menu at Zephyr Helicopter Company: "Commonly requested services include Utility Patrols, Survey Flights, Real Estate Viewing, Aerial photography, Ferry Flights, and Charter Services. We also respond to Search and Rescue and other emergency mission requests, and have worked with local authorities across the State of Colorado."

They could also be involved in construction, deliveries, newsgathering (Denver's TV stations share one helicopter) and who knows what else.

If, by some miracle, you can see the N-number on the side of the helicopter, you can look it up on the FAA website here.

Did I miss a type of helicopter that commonly flies over Denver?

Let me know.

Dave Burdick can be reached via email at [email protected] or twitter.com/daveburdick.

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