What’s up with that red and white helicopter?

Brynn writes:

Today’s mission? To find out why in the heck a red and white helicopter was hovering low over residential Bremerton between 2 and 3 o’clock this afternoon.

When we first got the call we assumed it was probably one of the local television station’s copters, so we called 911 to see if there was an accident in Bremerton, or fire, that we didn’t hear on the police scanner.

When local dispatchers told us all was quiet, we checked with Washington State Patrol to see if state troopers or Washington Fish and Wildlife officers were looking for something — maybe we had another bear on the loose in Bremerton?

Fortunately for those not wanting to come face-to-face with a bear, all was quiet. Unfortunately for a newsroom of nosy reporters, we still didn’t have an answer. This piqued our curosity even more.

By now it seemed every call coming into the newsroom was from someone wanting to know why a helicopter was in Bremerton. We also were getting questions on Facebook. The helicopter was described as red and white.

Because these are U.S. Coast Guard colors, we called their regional office to see if they were doing any drills in our area. Again no dice.

Who to call next? A reader said they’d tried the Bremerton National Airport, which directed them to the Federal Aviation Administration. After calling a couple numbers, I connected with someone who told me that without knowing the identification number on the aircraft, he couldn’t tell us who it belonged to.

What to do? Reporter Rachel Pritchett suggested I call over to Avian Aeronautics — the business where most helicopters come and go from the Bremerton National Airport.


I called and the man who answered the phone said: “I’ve got a red and white helicopter right here, let me go ask them what they were doing.”

How easy was that?

Turns out the helicopter and its occupants were doing some surveying for the city of Bremerton. The city authorized the flight. I tried reaching Mayor Patty Lent to find out what was being surveyed, but only got her voicemail. When she gets back to me I’ll update everyone about what exactly they were having done.

Glad to hear it was only some survey work and not some top secret operation that turned out to be not so top secret.

10 thoughts on “What’s up with that red and white helicopter?

  1. “so we called 911 to see if there was an accident in Bremerton”

    Is this allowed by all reporters? Do you have to be a top reporter to get this privilege? What about small time repoters? Civilians?

    I wasn’t aware that it is permitted to call 911 to obtain news information.

  2. I was thinking the same thing Bremerton. Seems like an abuse of the the 911 system. Brynn, since you let the cat out of the bag, I think the Sun owes an explantation for this. I’m sure you guys monitor police scanners so If this is regular thing I hope CenCom puts a stop to it. I my call ever got delayed becaue the local paper was just calling to see what was going on, I would be pretty darn upset.

  3. Ok, that’s two minutes of my life I’ll never get back. However, I’m more concerned that you “called 911.” 911 is for emergency use, not to satisfy your idle curiosity. It’s stupid calls like yours that drives up the costs and diverts resources that could and should be used in response to a possible life threatening event. Just sayin’.

  4. Regarding the Kitsap Sun’s call to CenCom, yes news media do have agreements with CenCom, law enforcement and other emergency responders that we can contact them for information.

    The purpose is to inform the public as quickly as possible about a situation. We do not abuse the privilege. I know I try to be sensitive to their priorities. I’m more than willing to be put on hold or to call back later if operators or the public information officer for a given agency is in the midst of handling an emergency.

    Chris Henry, reporter

  5. Just to follow up on what Chris said:

    While I wrote that we called 911, we did not dial 911. We dialed a non-emergency phone number that is answered by the 911 dispatchers. (However for simplicity sake, I just said we dialed 911).

    The number does not ring into the emergency dispatch line, and therefore does not interfere with people calling with emergencies. And, if dispatchers need to respond to something more important than our call, they put us on hold, and we have no problem being put on hold (although often our conversations are 1 minute or less).

    We call this non-emergency number regularly during the day and week to check in with our local law enforcement to make sure we didn’t miss any major accidents, fires or other emergencies that may have happened when the newsroom wasn’t staffed. We also call this number every night to check in, and often after we hear about an incident on the police scanner to determine its severity and whether it warrants news coverage.

    For example, if a lane or two of a major roadway are closed, we obviously cannot be everywhere in the county to verify whether what we’re hearing on the scanner is correct. So we call the NON-EMERGENCY number for CenCom and State Patrol, to get the accurate information so that we can get it up on the website, Facebook and Twitter as soon as possible.

    The faster we can get the right information out there to the public, the better it is for 911 dispatchers because people won’t be calling 911 to find out what happened. That’s the arrangement we have with our local law enforcement.

    Hope that clears this all up for everyone.

    – Brynn

  6. So if it’s not so top secret then what were they surveying? Turns out friday a heli was doing the same thing over Port Townend on friday. It was in their paper. A high tec camera attatched and registered to Guardian Helicopters inc. ……now I’m curious..

  7. I live in La Mesa, Ca and 2 weeks ago on a Wed., I woke up early and went to a friend’s place and we’re having coffee on her balcony and a red and white helicopter came by in eye distance and hoovered and looked like he was eyeing us. About 10 minutes later, I left and had to walk a ways to my car in visitor parking and the same helicopter got behind me and followed me. When I got to my car, he hoovered above me. I couldn’t understand why, and looked at it for a moment and got inside my car and it followed alongside me and then hoovered when I stopped at stoplights and would follow alongside after the light turned green. I then pulled into an AmVet Thrift store and the helicopter went around thru 2 trees and hoovered, they were definately wanting full view of me. I was freaked out a bit and even a bit disheartened that such a situation was happening to me – a law-abiding citizen that leads a simple and Christian life. I went to the police the next morning to report it and to know “why me.” I have been trying to solve this mystery. Hence, I thought I’d post this to see if any of you know why such a situation would transpire. Your thoughts or know-why, I welcome. Thank you.

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