Police Helicopter Pilot

Helicopter Aviation & Beyond:

We take you inside the cockpit of law enforcement helicopters around the world while sharing knowledge and insight on how to become a police or sheriff helicopter pilot.

Los Angeles Sheriff's Dept. Aero Bureau

 

A Los Angeles Sheriff's Department Eurocopter AS350 B2 on patrol

About LASD Aero Bureau

The LASD Aero Bureau is located on Lakewood Blvd at the Long Beach airport in Long Beach California. 

Presently the LASD Aero Bureau operates a total of 18 helicopters making it the largest fleet of helicopters operated by any Sheriff's Department in the U.S. This would be appropriate since the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department is the largest sheriff's department in the world with over 8,500 sworn deputies and another 5,800 civilian employees.

Only the Los Angeles Police Department Air Support Division boast a larger fleet of helicopters but only by one. LAPD still claims to operate the largest "municipal airborne law enforcement operation in the world" with 14 Eurocopter (now Airbus) AS350 B2 helicopters and 5 Bell Jet Ranger helicopters. 

Out with the old Helicopters- in with the new Helicopters

An LASD Aero Bureau AS332L1 Super Puma rescue helicopter on display at HAI Las Vegas, 2013. Photo by Darryl Kimball

An LASD Aero Bureau AS332L1 Super Puma rescue helicopter on display at HAI Las Vegas, 2013. Photo by Darryl Kimball

Around 2011 the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department embarked on an ambitious plan to replace essentially every helicopter in their Aero Burea. This after the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved $56.7 million for the purchase in May of 2010. In addition to replacing all 12 existing Eurocopter helicopters, which were beginning to age, the board approved the additional purchase of two more helicopters taking the size of the patrol fleet from 12 to 14. 

In a separate action the board also approved the purchase of 3 used Eurocopter AS332L1 Super Puma's to replace the slower and older Sikorsky H-3 Sea Kings that has for years served as the platform for the unit's rescue squad also know as Rescue-5.

More about LASD Rescue 5 and the Super Puma helicopter

LASD was one of the first law enforcement agencies to operate a helicopter when they acquired and began using a Bell 47 piston powered helicopter for rescues in 1955. The Rescue 5 program has come a long way from one Bell 47 to the addition of the Eurocopter / Airbus AS332 Super Pumas.

The addition of the Super Puma(s) is sure to enhance both the safety and effectiveness of the Rescue 5 program, which performs both land and sea rescues. Not only are the Super Puma's faster and more powerful than the Sikorsky Sea King(s) they are replacing, they new helicopters will come with a very long list of upgrades and features, both in the cockpit and externally, to help the Rescue 5 crew members succeed when they are called upon to perform a mission.

Some of these features are;

  • Advanced avionics cockpit
  • Night-vision compatible cockpits
  • Global Positioning System / Wide Area Augmentation System (GPS/WAAS) 
  • Instrument flight rules (IFR) capability
  • Weather RADAR
  • Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System / Terrain Awareness and Warning System (EGPWS/TAWS)
  • Flight Operational Quality Assurance program (flight recording)
  • External hoists
  • Forward-looking infrared cameras 
A Los Angeles Sheriff's AS332L1 Super Puma, Rescue 5 helicopter cockpit approaching a snow capped mountain peak in Los Angeles County. Photo by Skip Robinson.

A Los Angeles Sheriff's AS332L1 Super Puma, Rescue 5 helicopter cockpit approaching a snow capped mountain peak in Los Angeles County. Photo by Skip Robinson.

Each Rescue 5 Super Puma launches with a 5 person crew on board for every mission. The crew is made up of two pilots and 3 SWAT medics. Each SWAT medic is also a certified mountaineer and scuba diver. With the enhanced capabilities of the Super Puma, the elite SWAT medics that command the crew rescue cabin and the highly trained pilots there is almost no mission the Rescue 5 helicopter cannot accomplish.

Other missions performed by the Rescue 5 Super Puma are; Homeland Security, SWAT insertions, Marijuana Eradication, Natural Disasters, and strategic movement of equipment and personnel.  

In addition to the base at Long Beach Airport, LASD recently acquired a new "air station" office at Brackett field on the east side of Los Angeles County in La Verne Ca. 

 

The video below provides a good look inside the LASD Aero Bureau, their helicopters and the various missions that they fly. 

The LASD Aero Bureau also maintains a Facebook page where they post news, videos, hiking safety tips and more.