A U.S. Marine Corps helicopter flew over Newport Beach yesterday at an unusually low altitude and high rate of speed rattling rooftops as it passed over the city. The low flight path of the aircraft, its speed and the noise it generated gave residents a brief startling experience.
The flight was witnessed by this reporter at just after 2:15PM-PST Monday afternoon. The helicopter flew low and fast over the Newport Heights section of the city near Newport Harbor High School and headed out to sea.
The U.S. Marine Corps air command based at Miramar Marine Air Station in San Diego was contacted by Newport Beach Now (NBN), but a Marine Corps spokesman was unable to confirm the identity or purpose of the military flight prior to publication of this story.
The helicopter is believed to be a U.S. Marine Corps HU-1 "Venom" type aircraft as seen in the photo above.
The helicopter's flight was confirmed to NBN yesterday by Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Lynn Lunsford, who said "At 2:12 pm, a military helicopter did a low approach at John Wayne and then asked permission to fly southwest toward the beach, which is not an unusual request"
FAA spokesman Lunsford told NBN "according to radar, the aircraft was at an altitude of roughly 500 feet over NB, descending to about 200 feet at the beach. It dropped below radar while southbound over the water."
According to Lunsford, the military call sign of the aircraft was "Viper 88". A call sign is what aircraft use to identify themselves when in contact with air traffic controllers on the ground.
Newport Beach Police and the City's spokesperson Tara Finnigan were unable to confirm any official resident complaints or reports were received by local authorities about the flight.
In March of last year, a similar fly-by of military F-18 fighter jets over Newport caused a stir when residents were startled by the low-flying aircraft. The incident and related story can be seen here.
In response to last year's incident the city sought to receive pre-notification of any military fly-overs, but were rebuffed by military and FAA officials.
** UPDATE ** 2:50P - PST
U.S. Marine Corps spokesman 1stLt Chad Hill confirmed to NBN the flight and its purpose: "The 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing helicopter, stationed aboard Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, was conducting a training flight near John Wayne Airport. The aircraft was within an FAA-approved flight profile and under positive control of FAA air traffic controllers."