Today, find out why fighter jets are flying over Portland, Oregon, and what other military planes and helicopters fly over our city. View live aviation maps over Portland, Oregon.
Portland has its very own local Military Fighter Jet Squadron, the Redhawks. You often hear them and then see them flying over the city.
Illustration (check the tail wing)
Flight Radar 24 – Check what planes are currently in the air over Portland. Note this site will not show fighter jets but may show helicopters, refuelers, transports and all civilian aircraft.
ADSB Exchange – This site will show many military aircraft. You must use a desktop, launch the link and click the U in the top right to filter military craft
I recall my first visit to Portland and hearing a very loud, obvious military jet, something I was not used to in the Bay Area unless one of the local teams made the Playoffs(then they buzz the stadium). I thought to myself, holy hell, what is happening?!?! Ran to the window and there they were, beauts. Four F-15s mobbing across the city sky for no reason. Amazing! Excite! This kind of stuff brings out the super excited big kid in me. Airshows have always been my favorite thing. I used to put together model airplanes(special Oregon edition available on Amazon[ad]), I even went to the Sierra Academy Of Aeronautics in Oakland to become an aircraft mechanic. The bottom line is, you can imagine how excited I was to hear and see these beasts over Portland. Little did I know at the time that it was a very common thing to see fighter jets over Portland. So I looked further into it to explain why you often hear military jets flying over our lovely city. I got the idea because I always see people posting in Facebook groups asking why there are jets right now(they don’t know how to research).
What Military Planes Fly Over Portland?
The most common jets over Portland are McDonnell Douglas(currently Boeing) F-15C Eagles. A classic Air Force champion of the sky. These F-15’s fly out of the Portland International Airport, also known as PDX, which is famous for it’s ugly carpet. PDX houses an Air National Guard Base(history), aka ANGB. This base is home to the 142nd Fighter Wing(history).
Difference between the F-15C Eagle and F-15E Strike Eagle?
The C is a single-seater built for maneuverability and air superiority, while the E Strike Eagle is a double seater built to carry bombs and strike ground targets.
What branch of the military flies in Portland?
They are not under the control of the United States Air Force as a standard F-15 Fighter Wing but instead are a “state militia” squadron. They are commanded by the State of Oregon Air National Guard. Unless, of course, an order is given by the President of the United States. In that situation, they return to the standard USAF Air Combat Command Unit.
Why do they always fly F-15s in Portland?
They are on alert! They are part of the Pacific Theater Aerospace Control Alert (ACA) here in the Pacific Northwest, and they provide ACA 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the entire region from Northern California to British Columbia. They’re part of NORAD (North American Air Defense). I’m surprised we don’t hear them more. They defend the whole upper West coast from the boogeyman all year long.
Shown is a 142 FW F-15 taking off out of Portland International Airport(PDX). Source
Large Black Plane Circling Over Portland
From time to time, you may see a “large black military plane” over Portland, Oregon.
One, it is not “black.” It is standard military grey. Two, it is not really “large.” It is a KC-135 Stratotanker Refueler plane which is a military version of the Boeing 707. Our Air National Guard has them, and they fly circles when refueling jet fighters and are usually up to fuel them for special event flyovers. You can see one taking off from PDX here.
You can see many of them flying over the United States and the Middle East at any given time.
Black helicopters over Portland?
Now you’re just paranoid. There is no such thing. Move along.
Okay, I lied. PDX’s Air National Guard base also houses the 304th Rescue Squadron and they fly black helicopters over Portland. They look like Black Hawks but are actually “Pave Hawks.” These guys played a huge role in rescue operations after Mount St. Helens blew in 1980.
Other Military Aircraft Out of Portland?
It’s not all F-15 Eagles here at PDX. Occasionally, you will see other jets, airplanes, cargo carriers, and such flying in and out during routine military exercises and local airshows.
Other Military Aircraft Seen Over Portland
- F-15C Eagle – The Redhawks
- KC-135 Stratotanker – Portland ANG Refuler “Large Black Plane”
- C-5 Galaxy – Largest US Cargo Plane
- C-17 Globemaster – Beautiful landing at PDX
- F-22 Raptor – Modern Fighter Jet
- F-16 Falcon – Check that whole album
- C-130 Hercules Transport – Often seen in Coast Guard colors
- Air Force One
Unfortunately, I was unable to determine how many units are in this squad but here is an aerial photo showing 7 planes. Google satellite shows 8. We can assume at least one or 2 is out at all times.
It’s too bad you actually hear them a lot more than you see them because of all the cloud cover and rain in the fall and winter, but they are out there!
Random Facts (will be updated as I learn more)
One of the F-15s crashed off the coast during a training exercise back in 2007. The pilot Major Greg “Grumpy” Young, did die. [link]
Oregon also hosts Klamath Falls 173rd Fighter Wing at Kingsley Field, where pilots go to train to fly the F-15C. These guys are known as the… they don’t seem to have a name, but you can see how awesome they are here. They are not state militia like the Redhawks. They are run by the United States Air Force Education and Training Command. (AETC) MAJCOM. [link]
As always, please share and subscribe for more Portland!
You can follow Portland’s 142nd on Facebook.
I don’t live in Portland but, I love to hear them and watch them when they fly over Medford, Oregon.
Jack Holland says
As an old Vietnam era Navy Pilot living across the river, I love to hear the sound of freedom roaring each day.
Marian E Davis says
Keep ’em flying!! Love to see them!
I appreciate you putting this out there for the knuckleheads like me who just want to know ASAP!
My father joined the navy in ‘83 and after that worked at PDX, as an aircraft mechanic, he would always mention to me how he got many chances to hear and see these beautiful aircrafts take off!
Having lived in Solano County, I can assure you that a myriad of jets and C130s fly over the Bay Area. Among other bases, Travis is in Solano County. Yes, Solano County is considered part of the North\East Bay. I observed this activity around the Vallejo and Benicia areas.
Not a fan of the jet noise though – Blue Angels in SF kind of ruined it for me, not to mention Sep 2001.
I wouldn’t call any of that way up there “Bay Area”. Of course, those who live there will fight for the title but it’s just not so.
Calling Fairfield Bay Area is like calling Livermore Bay Area.
However, Travis AFB is home to mostly C-5 Galaxy’s and KC-10 Refulers though.
While big and semi loud, they would never go near the real Bay Area.
Military jets just don’t fly over the Bay.
The Air National Guard, USAF Reserve, and Regular USAF are the three components of the Total Air Force.
Also, there is the E-3 AWACS that we see infrequently see but that are often above us. View them as you drive by Boeing Field. They provide long-range radar and electronic coverage. Their home stations are Tinker AFB (OKC), Elmendorf AFB (AK), and Kadena AB (Japan).
When I was a youngish Sergeant I developed software for this Airborne Warning and Control System. Glad to be home.
I live in West Salem, Oregon today around 1pm I could feel a fighter jet I belive flying very low so much I thought it was gonna land in my house. Does anyone know what was going on thank you in Salem, Dallas Hwy and Oaks Ferry Rd area?
I’m in Eugene Oregon I just had the exact same experience
You are an ass! Yes, it does cost a lot to fly our jets but they are our jets and they wouldn’t be doing unnecessary flights just so they can spend our money. Don’t be mad because your toys are made for little girls. What do you think would happen to you and your neighbors if those pilots where grounded just so you can watch judge Judy without hearing them? Then the foreign powers that be came into our airspace and not just to look around. What would happen then if our pilots didn’t have the flight experience they need to keep this country the land of the free? How would you and your neighbors feel about this being the united states of Russia? You should worry more about whinny cry babies than you do about who might be lily-livered. We are the United States of America and we are FIGHTERS we’re good at it and if you don’t like the noise you and your neighbors can move!! The Jets are awesome the fighter pilots are awesome and you are not awesome.
Sheila Smith says
Love hearing and seeing the fighter jets fly over Beaverton. Little concerned when they flew over tonight at 9 pm. But they seem to be headed back to base.
I thank them for being here for us!
Lived in the Portland metro area my whole life (34 years of it). Every time I hear the roar of those two GE F404 turbofan afterburning engines streaking across the sky it brings a big smile on my face. Loved aviation as far back as I can remember. Especially military aviation. Keep kicking ass 142nd fighter squadron!
It’s the sound of Freedom!
Sheila Smith says
I love seeing the fighter Jets flying over Beaverton area. They just flew over and what a great feeling to see them. God bless!
I am also interested when I see the jets overhead. Usually, I see two or four that most likely are doing training runs.. several weeks ago, I saw 6 fly out in close succession, and at a higher speed than I usually see. A couple of days later I read that a Russian fighter jet had flexed its muscle over our airspace south of Alaska. I assume it was related? Is there any internet site where we can find out about these incidents and what our pilots did? It would be a good reminder of how important our ANG is, and perhaps make us all more forgiving of the loud noise.
Jet noise = the sound of Freedom!
That’s what I say out loud, everytime I hear them.
Theresa Mitchell says
Fighter aircraft flying low and slow over Portland are not practicing to defend against Tupolev bombers. They are practicing reconnaissance and/or cluster bomb runs over populations too poor to afford effective anti-aircraft missiles.
6/21/19 Jets flying over Bridgton ME. I asked hubby if we were attacking someone. Hope it’s just maneuvers!
Ant idea what just flew I’ve Eugene, Oregon today? Looked like a pair of mixed cappable copter.
Randy Armstrong says
I saw planes flying low over Sellwood are of Portland a few days ago, it was weird for sure
Got a bit nervous a few minutes ago. The military jets were low and loud. Hoping they were not pursuing anyone who is illegally in our airspace because it sounded like a pursuit. Anyone else hear this roar at 3:50 pm 6-6-19.
It was for the Rose Festival.
Yes! I’m on the south waterfront. I didn’t see them, but they passed by at least 3 times and were louder than I’ve ever heard them. Exciting!
I love watching you watching me when you fly above me. I want you to meet me. Please…
Just a historical addenda; prior to the F-15s, our guys drove F-4s. There was a restructuring of air defense tasking with a significant reduction in billets & aircraft, so….units if they wanted to survive had to compete for their jobs. A tournament was created to test each units flying & maintenance skills. Our guys beat a whole bunch of other units. Maybe it’s because Portland/Oregon appeared rather unassuming to the national brass cause they were quite impressed. Most of those men & women are retired now, but they deserve kudos and our gratitude. The RedHawks truly earned their wings, I love seeing and hearing(!) them. I know they are loud, but it’s a price we should all be willing to pay.
Prior to the F-4’s, they flew the F-106 equipped with the Genie Air-Air Nuclear missile. Little known fact, there were nukes at PDX, Walla Walla and McCord AFB in Washington. This was during the 60’s and early 70’s.
Amen to that bro