Civilian Path to Becoming a Police Helicopter Pilot
The Professional- Non Sworn Approach
Let’s be honest, if you are already a professional-civilian helicopter pilot and have been looking for a flying position with a police agency, then you in all likelihood will have as much information on the process as I. We both know (as previously discussed) that it is going to take a considerable amount of experience and years to land that position. Also, we have discussed that the civilian path to becoming a police helicopter pilot is probably the least common way, but those positions are certainly out there. This section will probably be most informative for the student helicopter pilot considering a career as a police pilot, or a young person about to enter helicopter pilot training who would one day like to become a police pilot.
It is my goal to provide the best information I can to anyone wishing to become a police helicopter pilot. Therefore I will continue to search out and gather information and data and share it with you here.
Which Is Best: Civilian Pilot or Sworn Police Pilot
If for some reason I have not made it clear before now, I emphatically support and extend best wishes to all persons seeking a position as a law enforcement pilot, whether civilian, military, or law enforcement! Though many people in the industry may have opinions on which organizational structure (civilian pilot or Law Enforcement pilot) is best, that is not the purpose of this site. Further, the best organizational structure for any agency is the one that works best for them.
With that said, many of the articles in this section, How to become a Police Helicopter Pilot, are going to focus on the Law Enforcement path, since it is the most common way someone becomes a law enforcement pilot.
I do want to leave you, the civilian pilot, with a thought. As a new or young pilot you could probably think of doing nothing else except flying helicopters. You worked very hard, got your ratings, got your 1000 hours and are working as a professional pilot. Giving this up to be a police officer is the farthest thing from your mind. But what if we jump ahead three or five years. You still enjoy flying and you don’t want to completely give that up, but for some maybe it’s time to take another look at the law enforcement path to that police flying job.
Should a Civilian Pilot Consider Becoming a Police Officer
Now I’m not trying to be a recruiter here, I am just pointing out an option. Some of the same things that led you to become a helicopter pilot may now lead you to find police work interesting. A sense of excitement, adventure, and challenge are common to both professions. In fact the personal characteristics that make you a good pilot will probably make you a good officer as well. When you factor in the stability, and generally good pay of being a law enforcement officer it may make sense to some.
Do your research and find an agency with a fairly large air unit, and maybe one that requires you to already be a helicopter pilot, (thus reducing your competition later on). The last time I checked the California Highway Patrol requires officers to obtain a private helicopter rating before being selected as a pilot. So, you spend a few years chasing bad guys on the ground while instructing in helicopters on the weekends (if you chose to do so), until that position in the air unit opens up. Could that be the best of both worlds?
Lastly, if you have zero interest in becoming a law enforcement officer then I would in no way encourage you to do so. It’s not a job for everyone. The bottom line is that it may be an option for some professional pilots who have gotten a few years of flying under their belt and are looking for further options, or to help pay off those student loans.
The Airborne Law Enforcement Association (the largest association of law enforcement pilots) estimates that there are around 3000 law enforcement helicopters operated by 500 different agencies worldwide.
ALEA has compiled information on over 200 airborne units, almost 1000 aircraft, over 1500 law enforcement pilots, and over 1100 tactical flight officers. Approximately 4% of law enforcement pilots are civilian pilots.
If you are a civilian pilot wishing to fly for a law enforcement agency I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors!
For a broader look at How To Become A Pilot and a look at airline pilot careers vs helicopter pilot careers follow this link.