Helicopters of DC


US Army: 12th Aviation Battalion


Known as the Gold Tops (in contrast to the HMX-1 White Tops), the unit provides VIP transportation for the Department of Defense.

Aircraft Type

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Based out of Fort Belvoir, this unit play a number of other roles, but one of them is also VIP evacuation in the case of emergency. While the HMX-1 squadron would ensure the evacuation of the President and his immediate advisors, it is this squadron that would spirit away other high ranking lawmakers and government leadership.

Viewing Tips

These helicopters are not as common in the skies over DC, but are still a somewhat regular sight flying over the rivers and to and from the Pentagon.

Notable Incidents

In 2014, the unit held an unusual exercise where 24 helicopters flew over DC. I didn’t see it at the time, which was for the best best, because I for one would have 100% read that as ‘Ummm… something’s going on and we’ve got 25 minutes’. The video (linked below) is well worth a watch.


US Army Helicopter

Photo Credits