June 05, 2020

Senator Duckworth, Former Army Black Hawk Pilot, Demands Investigations into Military Helicopters Threatening American Civilians


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Combat Veteran and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) is demanding investigations by and information from both the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) after multiple reports of low-flying military aircraft intimidating large groups of Americans in Washington, D.C., followed Donald Trump’s threats of military action against those protesting the killing of George Floyd on Monday evening. Duckworth, a former Army Black Hawk pilot who served in the Reserve Forces for 23 years, is a member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee which has jurisdiction over DOD and the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation which has jurisdiction over FAA.

“Our military—and its equipment—exist to protect American citizens, but what we saw on Monday night was our military using its equipment to threaten and put Americans at risk on American soil,” said Duckworth. “I cannot believe that a military officer gave the orders to those pilots, or that those pilots executed the orders or flew that low above Americans exercising their First Amendment rights. President Trump, Secretary Esper and General Milley should be ashamed of themselves—and the American people need to know how this happened.”

Video from Monday evening shows helicopters flying in close proximity to an open gathering of people. Flying military helicopters, or any helicopter, this close to the ground risks causing significant property damage as a result of the aircraft’s rotor wash, and worse, could cause injury or loss of life to humans if something catastrophic were to happen. Senator Duckworth’s letters to officials in the DOD and FAA request answers to why military forces were deployed in this manner. 

In response to this video evidence, Duckworth sent the following letters this week:

  1. A letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper expressing her concerns about the reports of low-flying aircraft and seeking a personal briefing from the Secretary regarding the status of DOD’s ongoing investigations into these reports, including whether there were any rotor wash-related injuries to people or property, what the justification for the low-level operations was and whether risk assessments were conducted.
  2. A letter to DOD Acting Inspector General Sean O’Donnell demanding an investigation into the scope of military operations on June 1st, who authorized those operations as well as whether they posed any undue risk to U.S. citizens.
  3. A letter to FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson seeking an internal investigation into potential misuse of military, government or civilian aircraft, including whether FAA approved any portion of Monday’s operations and whether the operations violated any federal laws, regulations or policies.
  4. A letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Acting Inspector General Howard Elliot seeking answers to questions including whether the aircraft entered prohibited airspace, whether they had authorization to do so, whether they operated in accordance with regulations regarding flights over open-air assemblies of persons and whether the aircraft operators violated any other federal laws, regulations or policies.

Senator Duckworth expects a response to these requests by June 30th, 2020.