Bird Watching in L.A. “The Ghetto Bird”
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By Adam Weatherall
“Why, oh why must you swoop through the hood
like everybody from the hood is up to no good.
You think all the girls around here are trickin
up there lookin like Superchicken
At night I see your light through my bedroom window
But I ain’t got shit but the pad and pencil
I can’t wait till I hear you say
“I’m going down, mayday, mayday.” I’m gonna clown
Cause everytime that the pigs have got me
y’all rub it in with the flying Nazi
military force, but we don’t want ya
Standin’ on my roof with the rocket launcher
“So fly like an eagle.”
But don’t follow us wherever we go
The shit that I’m saying, make it’s heard
Motherfuck you and your punk-ass ghetto bird
Run, run, run, from the ghetto bird”
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In the past I have brought you selected works from the great minds of Emerson and borrowed from giants of our past like Shakespeare, or the incomparable Dr. Seuss, but today folks, my subject was first correctly defined by none other than another L.A. native Ice Cube. The Urban dictionary defines a “Ghetto Bird” the following way. “That almost noiseless Helicopter Police use to shine a 1,000,000 watt Flashlight into your backyard. Also used in Police chases when ground forces cannot keep up in the chase.”
But increasingly it has become the most native resident of the avian variety to the skies of the greater southern California area. According to information provided on the L.A.P.D’s own website, “The Los Angeles Police Department maintains the largest police aviation unit in the U.S., and they can boast that they have the largest municipal police aviation unit in the world.” There are a couple of units larger such as the South African Police Service Air Unit, but they are an entire nation versus being a municipal agency. Of the 17 helicopters in total flown out of the L.A.P.D’s private helicopter base downtown, many have regularly been seen in violation of the FAA’s guidelines regarding aircraft altitude minimums. In case you didn’t know the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA is the government agency responsible for aviation safety. They welcome information from citizens that will enable them to take corrective measures including legal enforcement action against individuals violating Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR). It is FAA policy to investigate citizen complaints of low-flying aircraft operated in violation of the FAR, and that might endanger persons or property. Again I stress the FAA, according to their website, encourages public input on the matter…
That is why with this article I hope to launch a public investigation into the flight paths of these helicopters, which have made my hometown of Los Angeles feel a lot more like Baghdad rather than “the city of angels”. Keeping in mind that the FAA requires actual evidence to be able to properly investigate an issue, I call on you the public to go outside with your camera’s and range finding devices, binoculars and the like and send them to us here at Powerfist. We will compile the information into a neat little file and deliver it to the FAA making sure to follow all guidelines to the exact letter in the process of our investigation. The recommended flight altitude for helicopters is different than that required for fixed wing aircraft for obvious reasons, and varies per local area. However, a good rule of thumb is if you’re within city limits 1,000 feet or higher is required. If you feel you have observed a “ghetto bird” or perhaps, based on the distinction of your area you simply witnessed a low flying helicopter speak out, and participate.
Within the past year there has been some media attention given to this issue, even garnering the attention of elected state officials such as Diane Feinstein to speak out. But it seems that this only took place after residents of the more affluent areas of our city took issue with low flying helicopters did this become a concern to our local government. Even though this issue has long since plagued residence of the lower income portions of the city, so much so that it has become a part of the vernacular and used in popular music to an extent that it has become common place. At times they are seemingly more common in some of the dilapidated sections of our city than even other native birds like the pigeon or seagull. Years have passed since this practice of regularly low flying patrols first started, but it wasn’t until the cathedral like glass houses of the Hollywood hills began to vibrate the rapid rotation of propeller blades did the media began to care. In a city that is known for its painted sunsets and bright sun shiny skies, I say it’s time we the people took back our sunsets and took back our skies. But perhaps more importantly than that we take back our piece of minds lost in the noise and constant vibration of the L.A.P.D flying machines.
While this issue is being talked about it is the appropriate time to seize back control of our skies. If you feel as I feel join me and the rest of our team in the first of our series of investigative reports in which we try to make a difference to the community in which we reside. I must state that I do not hate the police, a common misconception of those who fly a similar banner to my own. I do in fact appreciate any individual who is brave enough to give themselves to the betterment of at least what they perceive “a greater good”, be that person a soldier, nurse, firefighter or yes even policemen. However those that take an oath to serve should be held to it, whether it be a doctor with the Hippocratic Oath or a police officer with the oath they took to first and foremost to protect and serve. We should hold them to that standard; technology has gotten to the point where L.A.P.D helicopters no longer need to buzz palm trees and rooftops to “get their man”. In a world of hi definition infrared led camera’s and satellite imagery 1,000 feet isn’t asking that much. Hopefully if we all ask together, Logic will Prevail.