A visit to Hampstead Heath can bring a wonderful range of sights, stunning views of London’s skyline, parakeets chirping overhead and even the odd RAF helicopter landing.
Military helicopters are regularly spotted swooping down over the heath before landing close to Parliament Hill Lido – much to the amazement of Londoners.
Mysteriously, the helicopters seem to rest for a short period of time before lifting off again minutes later and disappearing over the cityscape.
The choppers have even been heard during the middle of the night between 11pm and 4am.
The RAF has now explained the helicopters are permitted to land on the heath.
The Ministry of Defence (MOD) told the Local Democracy Reporting Service the helicopters have recently been carrying out exercises across London to help train crews for ongoing missions in the UK and abroad.
The pilots are being trained to cover a range of RAF operations, including assisting with the pandemic efforts in the UK and hurricane relief work in the Caribbean.
The RAF are currently helping out in Operation Rescript, a nickname given to the armed forces response to the pandemic.
The operation is the UK’s biggest ever military operation in peacetime according to the MOD.
The RAF are also training helicopter pilots to support Operation Ruman which helps with the relief efforts taking place in the Caribbean following devastating hurricanes in 2017.
The pilots train in a variety of locations to best train for different scenarios they could encounter across the world.
As well as training on Hampstead Heath the RAF’s teams have been training in Bristol, South Wales, Birmingham, Manchester and the Wirral.
The Ministry of Defence explained they try to notify local communities of any training activities that are not used to seeing helicopters but they are not able to explain the full details for security purposes.
The MOD added that it is likely to continue to use Hampstead Heath for training exercises but they were unable to say how often they will be using the park since there are so many factors that impact decisions.