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.

Filtering by Tag: Police

California, Montebello Police Air Support Unit

Montebello Police Air Support- R-44 helicopter. Photo- Montebello PD.The Montebello Police Department operates a joint "Air Support Unit" with the neighboring cities of El Monte, Irwindale and Baldwin Park.  Together the unit operates three Robinson R-44 patrol helicopters. The unit was initially created in 1993 by the City of El Monte California, but over time other cities came on board to participate in the program.  

Eventually the Air Support Unit began providing patrol services to the cities of Baldwin Park, Irwindale and Montebello.  The cities of West Covina, Azusa and the Baldwin Park School District Police would be added over time.  Currently this Unit operates three Robinson R-44 helicopters that are equipped with Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR), searchlight, public address system, LoJack vehicle recovery system, and computerized moving map.

California, Los Angeles Police Department Air Support Division

LAPD Helicopter on patrol, Photo- courtesy of Glenn Grossman.The Los Angeles Police Department Air Support Division operates 12 Eurocopter AS350 B2 Astars, 4 Bell 206 helicopters, 1 Bell UH-1H Huey helicotper, and 1 King Air 200 Fixed Wing Aircraft.  

The Los Angeles Police Department Air support Division started with one helicopter a Hiller 12J in 1956, then added a second helicopter in 1963.

The LAPD Air Support Division claims to be the largest "Municipal" police air unit in the world.  

To read more about the LAPD Air Support unit visit my other page on them here.


Ca.- Long Beach Police Dept. Air Support Unit

The Long Beach Police Department Air Support Unit operates 2 Eurocopter EC130 helicopters with a crew of approximately 5 sworn police pilots. The unit operates out of the Long Beach Airport.  In 2007 the Long Beach Police announced that they would be ruturning to the MD500 as their primary patrol aircraft, citing the cost to operate the larger EC130 Helicopters. 

Long Beach Police EC130 Helicopter at Rialto Airport. Photo Courtesy of Alan Radecki, Wikimedia.

California, Burbank & Glendale Police Joint Air Support Unit

The Burbank Police Department and the Glendale Police Department formed a joint police helicopter air support unit in 1979 to enhance public safety and provide an aerial law enforcement platform for the benefit of both cities.  Over 30 years later the unit continues to be a successful joint venture.  The joint air unit became more formalized in 2007.  Today the unit operates 3 turbine powered MD520 Notar helicopters.  The Notar (no tail rotor) helicopters reduce noice complaints from citizens, and significantly reduce the noise signature of the helicopter giving those involved in criminal activity less time to plan their getaway. 

In 2009 The Glendale/Burbank Police Air Support Unit began a test program with Pasadena Police to also share air support services with them, thus maximizing airborne assets while reducing costs further.  Pasadena Police operate their own air support unit which provides coverage for not only Pasadena but a number of partner cities. 

California, Fresno Police Department Air Support Unit

The Fresno Police Department's Air Support Unit was first formed in 1996 with three piston powered helicopters.  Presently the unit operates two Eurocopter EC120 turbine powered helicotpers, and 1- Cessna 206 fixed wing aircraft. 

Fresno's Police Helicopter unit also known as "Skywatch" has flown over 6,000 accident free hours in their turbine powered EC120s and approximately 20,000 accident free hours since 1996. 

According to Fresno PD's own website, "The Skywatch helicopters continue to play a major role in reducing the Fresno Police Department's overall police response times by posting an average response time of less than a minute, 35 seconds for the year of 2009 to be exact. In the year 2008 the Skywatch helicopters have achieved an all time high in the percentage of arriving first-on-scene to calls. Skywatch arrived first- on-scene in 2009 62% of the time. The Air Support Unit prides itself on its continued support of Fresno Police Department personnel and ultimately for providing a much needed blanket of security to the citizens of Fresno and Fresno County."

California, Fontana Police Department Air Support Unit

The Fontana Police Department conducts aerial patrols over the City of Fontana in a Robinson R-44 police helicopter.  Fontana first began aerial police patrols in 1996 with two R-44 Raven II helicopters equipped with all of the standard police equipment including Infrared cameras, spotlights, GPS mapping and P.A. system. 

The Fontana Police Air Support Unit operates for one 10 hours shift per day, 5 days a week and flies for around 1100-1200 hours per year.  While airborne, the Fontana police helicopter is often the first police presence at crimes in progress across the city. 

California, El Monte Police Department Region One Air Support

File photo of R-44 police helicopter, courtesy Robinson Helicopters.The El Monte Police Department Air Support Unit operates three Robinson R-44 piston powered helicopters in support of police department patrol and special missions. 

The helicopter unit was first formed in 1993 on an experimental basis.  However, the El Monte Police Air Support Unit quickly proved that having a police helicopter over their city was a benefit for both the police officers on the ground and the citizens.  

Over time neighboring cities also recognized the benefit of the police helicopter unit and came on board as partners in the program.  Today the El Monte Police Region One Air Support provides services for West Covina, Azusa, Irwindale, Baldwin Park, Montebello, and even the Baldwin Park School District Police Department. 

While the piston powered R-44 may not always garner the accolades of it's turbine powered rotor wing counterparts, it is none nonetheless a capable helicopter.

El Monte's R-44 police helicopters carry the same hi-tech equipment as more expensive police and sheriff's helicopters;  Equipment such as moving maps, heat sensing infra-red cameras, P.A. systems, and high powered spot lights. 

California, East Bay Regional Park Police Helicopter Unit

East Bay Regional Park Police Helicopter, AS350, Photo- East Bay Regional Park District.To understand the East Bay Regional Park Police air support unit one must first take a look at the East Bay Regional Park District and understand just who or what it is. 

The East Bay Regional Park District was formed in 1934 for the purposes of protecting excess watershed lands in the Oakland and Berkeley Hills.  East Bay simply refers to the area east of San Francisco Bay.  Today, almost 75 years later, the East Bay Regional Park District covers the entire area of both Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.  More than just covering two counties, the district covers over 100,000 plus acres, some 65 parks, and about 1150 miles of trails.  To top it off the district receives some 14 million visitors annually. 

One can quickly see the need for the district to not only have it's own police department, but it's own police helicopter unit, fire department, and lifeguards. 

The East Bay Regional Park Police own and operate two turbine powered Eurocopter AS350 helicopters staffed by two police pilots and one volunteer medic.  The helicopter unit flies missions in support of all district police officers, as well as enhancing the safety of all park visitors.  The helicopter unit also provides mutual aid support to any public safety agency in Alameda or Contra Costa County when called upon to do so.  

During fire season the East Bay Regional Park Police helicopter "Eagle" doubles as a fire fighting aerial asset when fire breaks out.  The helicopter routinely carries a Bambi Bucket on all patrol flights, which can be quickly attached underneath the helicopter should a fire break out. 

In addition to fires and police support, the helicopter is dispatched on all medical aid calls within the park district.  The helicopter can often land and administer direct first aid to park visitors who fall ill or become injured.  The East Bay Regional Park Police helicopter can easily be configured as an air ambulance and can be called upon to transport critically ill or injured patients from remote locations within the district if needed. 

Map of the East Bay Regional Park District.

Ca. Anaheim Police Department Air Support

The Anaheim Police Department operates 2- Eurocopter AS250 B2 helicopters, and 1- MD500 helicopter.  Home to Disneyland, Anaheim has had a TRF (Temporary Flight Restriction) in place over Disneyland since shortly after 9/11.  The TFR does not effect law enforcment, EMS, or other government/safety flights.

The Anaheim Police Air Support Unit is made up of approximately 10 sworn police officer pilots and tactical flight officers. 

Anaheim Police MD500E helicopter.

Ca. Alhambra, Arcadia, Azusa, South Pasadena, Monrovia, West Covina, Glendora, (Foothill Air Support Unit)

The Foothill Air Support Team is an extension of the Pasadena Police Air Support Unit formed in 1999, with six partner cities.  The six cities, Alhambra Arcadia, Azusa, South Pasadena, Monrovia, West Covina and Glendora are all located in the Foothills area of northern Los Angeles County.  As the name implies, these are the foothills of the towering San Gabriel Mountains.

Each of the six cities provides one Tactical Flight Officer to the "FAST" team, who are then partnered with a Pasadena Police Pilot. 

The Pasadena Police operate 2- Enstrom F28 helicopers, 1- Enstrom 480, 1- Bell 206, and 2- Bell OH-58 helicopters.   

Ca. ABLE- Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Santa Ana Air Support Unit

ABLE- (Airborne Law Enforcement Services) is a cooperative police air support unit between the three police departments in Orange Co. California, which includes the cities of Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and Santa Ana. 

Each city provides both monetary support as well as sworn pilots and observers to the program.  The unit operates 3 Eurocopter EC120 helicopters, and 1 Eurocopter AS350 helicopter.  When the unit is flying the helicopter goes by the call sign "Eagle." 

The Airborne Law Enforcement Services unit began in 1996 with an agreement between Costa Mesa and Newport Beach, with Santa Ana coming in later. 

While unit numbers are likely to change from time to time, following is a close representative of the unit as it exist today.

Costa Mesa- Contributes 4 sworn police officer pilots and 3 part time observers.

The EAGLE helicopter and crew flies out of John Wayne Airport in Orange County, Ca.

Newport Beach- Contributes 3 sworn police officer pilots, and 2 part time observers.

Santa Ana- Contributes 1 sworn police officer pilot and 1 observer. 

Arizona, Tucson Police Department Air Support Unit

The Tucson Police Air Support Unit was first established in 1972 and currently operates 3 Bell 206 helicopters and 1- Cessna 172 fixed wing aircraft.  The unit's home base is the Tucson International Airport. 

The City of Tucson is the county seat for Pima County Arizona, and is the second largest city in the state with a population of over 500,000 in the city limits, and metropolitan area population of approximately on million.  Like many police air support units, the Tucson Police Air Support unit is often called upon to assist smaller agencies in their area who do not have their own helicopter division. 

The Tucson Police Air Support Unit has a staff of 7 full time sworn police officer pilots, as well as two mechanics and a supervisor pilot. 

The unit responds to about 12,000 calls per year and during a recent year assisted on over 7 hundred arrest. 

The Tucson Police Air Support Unit  enjoys and outstanding safety record. 

Arizona, Phoenix Police Department Air Support Unit

Phoenix Police Agusta A119 patrol helicopter, photo wikipedia.orgThe Phoenix Police Air Support Unit was first formed in 1973 with two Schweizer 300C piston powered helicopters and a single 172 Cessna airplane.  Initially the unit operated out of the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. 

In the years that followed the Phoenix Air Support underwent many changes and continued to grow in size.  By 1979 the unit was operating a total of 5 Hughes (MD) 500D model helicopters with 10 officers and had moved into a new facility at Deer Valley Airport.  By 1991 the unit had moved on to a fleet of 7 MD 520N (Notar) turbine powered helicopters and had staff of 23 officers.  But the Phoenix Police Aviation Unit didn't stop there. 

Today the Phoenix Police Department owns and operates a total of 8 helicopter and fixed wing aircraft to include;  3- Eurocopter AS350 helicopters, 3- Agusta A119, 1- Agusta A109 (twin turbine engines), 1- Cessna 182 and 2- Cessna 182s.  There are a total of 28 officers currently assigned to the unit.  The unit currently flies about 8,000 hours a year, and has helicopters and crews available to respond to calls on a 24/7 basis.

The Phoenix Police Air Support Unit conducts fire and rescue training in conjunction with the Phoenix Fire Department.  Senior members of the unit train to deliver water on fires through the use of Bambi Buckets. 

All members of the Phoenix Air Support Unit are sworn police officers with a minimum of three years experience on the streets.  The selection process to become part of the Aviation Unit is very competitive. 

The City of Phoenix is home to approximately 1.5 million people and is the 5th most populous city in the U.S. 

Arizona, Mesa Police Department Aviation Unit

The Mesa Arizona Police Department operates 3- MD 500E helicopters and 1- Cessna 172 Skyhawk fixed wing airplane. 

The Mesa Police aviation unit dates back to 1986 when the department aquired it's first fixed wing airplane.  The unit remained a fixed wing only unit until 1994 when the deparment aquired it's first two MD 500E helicopters through a lease program.  Eventually the city purchased the two helicopters and in 2003 added a 3rd MD 500E helicopter. 

Currently the aviation unit is staffed with 8 full time pilots all of whom are sworn Mesa Police Officers.  Each pilot also fulfills the roll of the Tactical Flight Officer when not assigned as the pilot.  Additionally there is a chief pilot, two part-time fixed-wing pilots, six part-time Tactical Flight Officers (all of whom are Mesa Police Officers), two mechanics, one secretary, and one sergeant assigned to the unit.

To be elligible for a transfer to the aviation unit officers must first complete 3 years as a patrol officer on the streets. 

The Mesa Police Aviation Unit is based at Falcon Field Airport in Mesa Az.

Mesa is a suburb of Phoenix Arizona with an estimated population of 452,000.

Alabama, Cullman City Police Department Air Unit

The Cullman City Alabama Police Department operates two Bell OH58 helicopters on a call out basis available 24 hours a day. 

The following information is from the Cullman City Police Department's Website; 

"The Aviation unit is on call 24 hours a day, seven days per week, to assist our officers as well as other local agencies and agencies from surrounding counties.  Requests for assistance range from public service program demonstrations to marijuana eradication, search and arrest warrants, missing persons cases, search for escapees, high speed pursuits, storm damage assessments, traffic flow assessments, aerial recognizance and surveillance for criminal and narcotic investigations, assisting Tactical Team, and search and rescue operations.  Last year, this unit responded to over 150 calls for service."

You can visit the Cullman City Police Website here, and look for their helicopter under the Patrol Division.