How to get a Helicopter Pilot Job with the FBI
Become an FBI pilot and you may find yourself flying a Citation similar to this one. It is probably not something that you hear talked about every day, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation is home to what most would consider to be a sizeable aviation unit. While specific numbers are not public information, past news reports put the number of total aircraft somewhere around 80. The number of pilots required to operate 80 aircraft would almost certainly be in the hundreds. Probably not five or six hundred, but very likely a couple of hundred. For the young person looking for a career in law enforcement aviation, the FBI's Aviation Program may be just the opportunity for you, if you are up to the challenge.
The FBI has made it public knowledge that about 88% of their aviation assets are dedicated to surveillance missions. In 2003 the FBI acknowledged that since the 9/11 attacks their request for aircraft, for surveillance missions had increased by 60%. What this also means is that the FBI's Aviation Program operates far more fixed wing aircraft than helicopters, as fixed wing aircraft are better suited for these types of missions. And while some of these aircraft will fall into the light jet category, just as many are propeller driven piston engine aircraft valued for their lower air speeds and unobtrusive appearance.
The FBI has a total of 56 Field Offices all of which have access to aircraft from the FBI's Aviation Program for the purposes of surveilliance, photography, and the transportation of critical personnell, equipment and evidence during crisis situations.
One of the first documented cases of an FBI agent using an aircraft for official purposes was in 1938 during an extortion investigation. The investigation reached a point where a package was to be thrown from a moving train, and the FBI agent needed to be in a position to witness the transaction. However, the first major deployment of aircraft by the FBI was in 1975 when two agents were murdered on the vast Pine Hills Indian Reservation in South Dakota prompting a lengthy and difficult investigation.
In addition to fixed wing aircraft, the FBI operates a number of helicopters. The following information about the FBI's Hostage Rescue Unit is from Wikipedia.com;
"The HRT operates a Tactical Aviation Unit, which is staffed by FBI special agents. The Tactical Helicopter Unit, a subunit of the aviation unit, contains a variety of helicopters specially modified for the HRT's use. These helicopters include eight military converted UH-60 Black Hawk tactical transport helicopters and several McDonnell Douglas 530 Little Bird light helicopters. Unlike the military, whose aircraft are not always in the same location as the tactical operators, the HRT’s Tactical Helicopter Unit is literally right out the front door on a low hilltop. Also, the HRT operates two C-5 Galaxy cargo planes for transportation purposes. All the HRT's Tactical Aviators fly daily."
While there are positions in the FBI for rotor-wing pilots, it would appear to me that the bulk of FBI missions are carried out by fixed wing pilots.
So how does someone land a job as an FBI pilot? If you have read the articles I have posted in "How to become a police helicopter pilot" then you know that any position as a police or law enforcement pilot is going to be a long term goal for most people. The FBI even more so. I recently had the opportunity to speak to an FBI pilot and inquire as to how one obtains the position.
FBI Agent/Pilot: Currently all FBI pilots are sworn agents. All are graduates of the FBI academy in Quantico Va., and all have spent time working the field in law enforcement investigations. While some other federal agencies have started to trend toward hiring very experienced civilian pilots, the FBI has not adopted this approach.
Additionally, most or all FBI Agent/Pilots came into the agency with previous aviation experience. For example, the pilot I interviewed for this article began flying at age 19, became a military pilot, and ultimately a state trooper where he flew helicopters in their air unit. Before the cutoff age of 37 he applied for, and was hired by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Where did most current FBI Agent/Pilots get their flying experience? I am told it is a blend of both military and civilian flying experience. In other words there is no requirement to have been a military pilot. Pilots who obtain their ratings through civilian flight schools are well represented among the ranks of FBI pilots.
College Degree: Before we get too far along in the aviation side of becoming an FBI Agent/Pilot, we need to look at the basic qualifications for an entry level FBI agent. Yes, you will need that 4 year degree from an accredited university, but not just any degree. The FBI has identified specific areas of study that they require in order to meet the minimum qualifications. A visit to the FBI's official website will answer most of these questions for you. You may want to look at what they call their "diversified" degree & experience category.
Flight Experience: While I would love to be able to report to you exactly what ratings and how much flight time you will eventually need to become an FBI pilot, it is just not possible at this time. Requirements often change with the needs of the department or agency. If there is an abundance of FBI agents with aviation experience to chose from, more ratings and experience by be required to be competitive. If there is a shortage (at the time) of agents with aviation experience, the requirements are going to be less.
What is it really going to take: Any law enforcement aviation unit whether small or large, federal or local, will have movement of personnel. People retire, people lose their flight medicals, people move on to different assignments, etc., etc. So ten, fifteen and twenty years from now there will be FBI Special Agents competing for positions in the FBI Aviation Unit. The question is, will you be one of them? Have a plan and then work your plan.
You will need a college degree in one of the areas of study required by the FBI. What will you do to make this happen? Here is a tip. I can assure you the FBI will want to know what your GPA was in college and probably in high school. It tells them a lot about you!
You will need certain aviation ratings and flight experience. What are you willing to do to make this happen? I would imagine at the very least you would want to set your goals on a commercial fixed wing license with IFR and Multi-engine ratings. Yes this will cost you money, unless of course you go the military route.
I don't think anyone can tell you exactly how to get there. All I can do is show you the opportunity, point you in the right direction, and wish you good luck. Ultimately it will be your hard work, dedication to your goal, and perserverience over many years that will determine whether or not you are selected for that pilot position 10 or 15 years from today. Go for it!
Sources: Wikipedia.com, Associated Press, FBI Official Website.
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