Flying helicopters is not something you forget how to doWhen a helicopter pilot has been out of the saddle for a while, there may be no sound more beautiful to his or her ears than the sound of spinning rotors three feet above your head.
I left the San Diego Sheriff’s Air Support unit on August 16 2010 to start my new position as a patrol sergeant at the Fallbrook Station in northern San Diego County. In February of 2012 I transferred back to Valley Center, my old beat, as one of two patrol sergeants assigned to the station.
After nine months at Valley Center I received the call I had been waiting so patiently for and was notified of my impending transfer back to the air unit. It was a great feeling knowing that for the second time in my career I was about to leave patrol behind and re-enter the world of helicopter aviation.
Earlier this month I attended the Airborne Law Enforcement Association-Western Regional Safety Conference, which thanks to the genius mind of Western Regional Director Steve Roussell (LAPD), was held in Napa California. That is wine country just in case you were not sure.
During the seminar I was approached by Bryan Smith, ALEA’s Safety Program Manager and pilot for the Lee County Florida Sheriff’s Office, who introduced himself and mentioned that he had a copy of my book Catch the Sky on his desk at work. Bryan had nothing but positive things to say about the book, which truly means a lot to me coming from a fellow law enforcement pilot.
But then Bryan made the point that at the end of the book he was left wondering if I ever got back in the air unit. It was then the light went on and I realized I had not done any type of update since the release of the book in September of 2012; Hence this post “Oh the sound of spinning rotors.”
Effective Translational Lift- Oh yeah I remember what that is
It is good to be back at the controls of those wonderful – noisy flying machines called helicopters. I can attest, as someone who only flew twice in the two and a half years I was away, you do not forget the mechanics of how to fly a helicopter- not one bit. A little rusty sure, but all the moves were right there.
During my time as a patrol sergeant I told myself that I really did not miss it that much, but when the skids left the ground for the first time the excitement and thrill of flying came rushing back over me in an instant. I tried to hide the smile that had appeared on my face for fear that Kevin, ASTREA’s Chief Pilot, would think I was having too much fun and tell me to land. But I was back, and it was good.
As a sergeant in the air unit I don’t get to fly as much as the deputies- flight crews. But in ten months of backfilling for vacations, training, and sick days, I have managed to eke out about 200 hours of flight time. It is a good mix of flying the desk and flying helicopters. I also fill in as TFO when needed and recently got over a nice vehicle pursuit, followed by a lengthy foot pursuit in the City of Vista- as the TFO. And yes, the suspect was taken into custody! Many veteran LE pilots will tell you that the real fun is on the TFO side anyway.
There is always more to do it seems. Just this week I was “carded” by Cal-Fire/USFS for water dropping-bucket operations in the Bell 407. This just means that if the need arises I could fly on fires which are under the jurisdiction of Cal-Fire, or carry Cal-Fire personnel on my aircraft.
Haight & Ashbury in a helicopter blog post? Sorry no hippie photos here
For someone who has lived in California for 30 years, it’s hard to believe I had never visited the City of San Francisco. I had been close a few times; Monterey and Carmel but never the city. Now some would probably say that is a good thing. But I am an adventurous person so the trip to Napa (about 1 hour north of San Francisco) provided the perfect opportunity to not only visit San Francisco, but to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge, down Lombard St, and through the intersection of Haight and Ashbury.
Now why the hell would I want to go out of my way to see the neighborhood that gave birth to the hippie movement and the likes of Charles Manson you ask? For no other reason than to say I did.
I will say that driving in San Francisco was without a doubt the toughest place I have ever driven. Half the time you are driving on railroad tracks (Ok street car tracks), the streets have the craziest markings of anyplace I have ever been and you never know whether to obey the street signs or just do what every other car on the road is doing. And don’t even mention pedestrians- man those were some angry looks we got. The fact that we made it in and out of the city without a claim on our car insurance is just amazing. Somebody should create a special driving course just for driving in San Francisco.
Napa was just awesome too. Anytime you pack over 500 wineries into one exquisitely beautiful grape growing valley, well it just makes for a damn nice place to visit. We didn’t go to crazy but we did visit a couple of wineries and did our share of tasting.
LAPD and Slippery Shrimp
A few weeks back I got the opportunity to travel with our unit’s lieutenant and fire rescue sergeant up to the LAPD Air Support Division for the purposes of looking at some of their training programs.
For a refresher; LAPD Air Support is not only the largest municipal police air support division in the world (with about 19 helicopters), they operate from the largest rooftop heliport in the U.S., the LAPD Hooper Heliport. A big thanks to Steve and George up at LAPD for spending the time to show us their various training programs, but for also introducing us to a dish called slippery shrimp in nearby China Town. It may not sound appealing but I have to say it may just be the best shrimp dish I have ever had.
In March of this year I also attended the HAI conference in Las Vegas. Ok, I really showed up for one day and walked the Expo for hours ogling over helicopters of every make and model. Some old and some new but all were shiny and pristine. I still have a camera full of photos that I have been threatening to do something with. So stand by for a long overdue photo centric blog post on Las Vegas and HAI.
Till then- Fly safe!