Why You Will Hear & See Helicopters in Ashland, Framingham, & Natick

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WASHINGTON DC –  The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) will conduct low-altitude helicopter flights over the Boston Marathon route Wednesday, April 13, through Monday, April 18 in preparation for the race and the events related to it.

The flights were originally to start on Thursday, April 14, but the weather forecast prompted a change.

NNSA’s Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST) aircraft will measure naturally occurring background radiation as part of standard preparations to protect public health and safety on the day of the event.

The aerial surveys are in support of the 2021 Boston Marathon.


The public may see NNSA’s twin-engine Bell 412 helicopter, which is equipped with radiation sensing technology. The helicopter will fly in a grid pattern over the areas at 150 feet (or higher) above the ground at a speed of approximately 80 mph.

Flyovers will occur only during daylight hours and are estimated to take approximately two hours to complete per area.

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