Weekend Helicopter Mystery Solved: Blame It On Hollywood

Photo: An internet photo of the low-flying helicopter flying over parts of Belmont over the weekend

It was something out of  film “Apocalypse Now”: A low-flying helicopter was buzzing parts of Belmont and neighboring Watertown starting around 8:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 2.  For more than an hour, the helicopter would circle over one neighborhood then buzz close to the ground only to hover again.

When residents called into Belmont Police, they were told the copter was “conducting night photography over Belmont.”

Then early Sunday morning, Sept. 4, before 6 a.m. the same helicopter winged its way over the town staying around for more than an hour, waking up many residents who were left asking the same question: what was really going on? Speculation included the flights being part of the airport’s noise abatement program and spraying for mosquitos.

For some Belmontians and other citizens, the truth a bit darker and was not being explained.

“Something isn’t right,” commented Mark McIver on the Belmontonian Facebook page. “I feel the BPD didn’t even know about this bs until they witnessed it and heard complaints.” … “Big brother does whatever he wants and the local boys report what they are told. Wake up people…”

Sounds fishy..” wrote Edward Cartwright. 

Thanks to the Watertown News and its great editor, Charlie Breitrose, the mystery of the low-flying copter has been solved.

And you can blame it on Hollywood.

According to the News, after fielding a substantial number of calls on Friday and Sunday, Watertown Police began an investigation by taking down the identification number of the tail of the helicopter. The ID led to Norwood Airport and the helicopter which is owned by Wings Air, out of White Plains, N.Y.

“We were finally able to track down an employee who told us that they were contracted by CBS Films to do overall air shots for the ‘Patriots Day’ movie,” according to Watertown Police Chief Michael Lawn.

The film, which stars Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Bacon, J.K. Simmons (as Watertown Police Sgt. Jeffrey Pugliese) and John Goodman, chronicles the events of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 and the gun battle and manhunt of the Tsarnaev brothers. The film will have a limited release on Dec. 21 with a wide release on Jan. 13, 2017.

And it appears that the production crew may not have had the best understanding of the towns in the region.

“[Wings Air] stated that they filed their flight plan with [Federal Aviation Administration] and also contacted Malden Police Department for some reason but never contacted Watertown PD,” said Lawn. “We expressed our displeasure for this and they were extremely apologetic for causing this alarm and disturbance.”

The good news is that the overhead filming is complete, and the company has returned to New York.

“I will follow up [Tuesday, Sept. 6] with CBS Films and make sure they know how we feel and make sure this does not happen again,” Lawn said.

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  1. Brian Rogers says

    So why shoot aerial film on Labor Day weekend? Watertown trees were not yet foliated in April 2013. Is CBS Films somehow unaware of this? Sheesh.

  2. JProducer says

    Helicopters and low-flying aircraft are a routine occurrence over Belmont (I’m in Payson Park). Often the aircraft are in transit to Hanscom. To attribute it to sinister government motivations is more than a bit of paranoia.

    I saw these particular aircraft, and could tell immediately that they were equipped with a external camera mount on the nose. Big deal.

    The helicopter operator was more than a bit deficient in not notifying the towns they were over – get real, they have precise GPS navigation and know exactly where they are – Boston air traffic control wouldn’t let them in the Boston/Logan airspace if they didn’t.

    Pretty exciting stuff for sleepy Belmont…

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