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Helicopter Operations at NSA Bethesda


As part of normal operations in support of patient care at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB) maintains a medical landing zone on the installation dedicated to medical operations including the transport of patients, and transport of organs for transplant. Exceptions include official flights for the President, Vice President, and a short list of pre-approved key government officials.

The following information addresses basic information on air operations at NSA Bethesda and has been compiled based on inquiries from the public.

1) There seem to be an unusual number of helicopters flying over Walter Reed Bethesda. As a military installation, doesn’t Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (or NSA Bethesda) monitor air traffic above the installation?

NSAB is not a fully operational heliport and does not have an air traffic control tower. Air traffic in Washington, D.C. is monitored by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The air space above the installation is not restricted. The base only tracks flights destined for or originating from NSAB. Other flights that may be in the area:

  • NSA Bethesda is approximately a mile away from Suburban Hospital, which also operates a medical helipad.
  • Numerous law enforcement agencies, including Montgomery County Police Department and Maryland State Police.
  • News choppers that may be covering traffic on I-495 or other events nearby on the ground.
  • Military helicopters from other installations that may be conducting training flights in the area.

2) Why are there so many flights at night?

The area surrounding NSA Bethesda has a lot of helicopter air traffic from a variety of sources. Many fly low and may create an audible or even visual illusion that they are bound for Walter Reed Bethesda.

At NSAB - non-emergency flights should not occur past 9:15 p.m. If an emergency MEDEVAC or organ transport for WRNMMC is necessary, later flights may occur.

3)  Someone told me that military commanders use the landing zone for commuting to work to avoid District traffic. Is that true?

The landing zone at NSA Bethesda is dedicated to medical operations. The landing zone is not used for military commanders who wish to “commute.”

4) I found a website offering charter flights to and from the Walter Reed Bethesda helipad. Who can use the helipad?

The landing zone is for medical operations including patient transport and organ transport. It is not a public helipad. NSA Bethesda does allow the use of the landing zone for chartered operations.

In February of 2018, NSA Bethesda was made aware of a website offering flights from the landing zone without prior knowledge or approval of the installation. At the request of base officials, the site removed the listing.

You may report any suspect websites or advertisements to

5) I often see flights that seem to be landing at Walter Reed Bethesda, and they are very noisy – even rattling our windows. How do we stop them?

Flight operations can be noisy. Medical flights at NSA Bethesda are life-saving operations that take place to preserve the life of patients at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. 

Created: February 2018


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