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.

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, US Customs & Border Protection Air & Marine Ops

US Customs UH-60 Blackhawk Helicotper assisting Ice Agents.The Tuscon sector of the US Customs & Border Protection Air Unit is based out of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson Arizona.  The unit operates a total of 16 aircraft to include 4 fixed wing airplanes and 12 helicopters;  2- Cessna 210, 2- Cessna 550, 4- Sikorsky H-60 helicopters and 8- Eurocopter AS350 helicopters. 

The Yuma Az secotor operates 2- Eurocopter AS350 helicopers, 5 Eurocopter EC120s, 3 Hughes OH-6 helicopters, and 1- Bell UH-1H Huey helicopter. 



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, Pima County Sheriff's Tactical Air Support Unit

Pima County Sheriff Helio Courier outfitted with a turboprop engine and a Star Saffire Flir Camera.The Pima County Sheriff's Department has adopted an innovative approach to airborne law enforcement.  When tasked to come up with an airborne patrol platform without the traditional costs of a helicopter, members of the department identified the fixed wing HT 295 Helio-Courier as an acceptable alternative to the helicopter.  With slow flight capabilities in the high 20s, plenty of useable load, and the ability to mount heat sensing cameras to hard points under the wing, they discovered that they could perform about 80% of all missions that traditional police helicopters were called on to perform.  But by using the fixed wing platform they were able to provide patrol and surveillance support at a fraction of the cost.

Yes fixed wing aircraft have long been used in airborne law enforcement applications, however, the vast majority are used as transport, or strictly surveillance from high altitudes.  Not the direct patrol support that has been relegated to the helicopter for the past 40 years. 

The Pima County Sheriff's Office operates 5 aircraft to include;  1-Cessna 210, 1-Cessna 310, 2- HT-420 patrol & surveillance airplanes, and 1- MD 530FF helicopter. The unit is staffed with 6 pilots (all of whom possess commercial and instrument fixed wing ratings), and several Tactical Flight Officers. 

Pima County S.O. fixed wing and MD530F helicopter.

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.

Arizona, Maricopa County Sheriff's Air Support Unit

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office operates a mix of fixed wing airplanes and helicopters for a total 6 aircraft.  These aircraft include 1- Bell 407, 2- Bell OH-58 helicopters, 1- Cessna 206 airplane, 1- Piper PA-31 airplane, and 1- Schweizer 269 helicopter.

The Aviation Support Unit is based out of Central Arizona Project Hanger in Pheonix Arizona.  According to the website www.mcso.org the air support unit "provides airborne law enforcement support to uniformed patrol, Lake Patrol, Search and Rescue operations, narcotics enforcement, extraditions and SWAT operations."

Maricopa County is home to "America's Toughest Sheriff", Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Arizona DPS (Department of Public Safety) Highway Patrol

Photo courtesy of Arizona DPSThe Arizona Department of Public Safety, Highway Patrol Aviation division operates a total of 9 aircraft to include 5 helicopters and 4 fixed wing aircraft. 

Four of the helicopters are configured as Air Rescue Helicopters and provide first responder emergency medical services, technical rescue services, rescue operations, aerial and logistical support for law enforcement, highway safety and traffic enforcement operations, and transportation services in support of critical government operations. 

According to the Arizona DPS website the mission of the aviation unit is to;

"Provide an immediate, 24-hour per day, statewide air support response capability for critical occurrences and emergency situations, to provide aerial and logistical support for law enforcement, highway safety and traffic enforcement operations, and to provide transport services in support of governmental operations and critical administrative functions."

The Air Support and Aviation Maintenance are based at the Aviation Headquarters unit at the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, while the aircraft are strategically assigned throughout the state for maximum coverage. 


Alaska Department of Public Safety Aircraft Section

The Alaska Department of Public Safety Aircraft Section is not your typical Police Aviation Unit by any means. 

First the Alaska Department of Public Safety divides it's troopers into two categories, State Troopers and Wildlife Troopers.  Together the two divisions operate a whopping 43 state owned aircraft all of which fall under the responsibility of the "Aircraft Section."

The Aircraft Section is responsible for not only the maintenance of all state owned aircraft but also the recurrent training and check rides for all DPS pilots. 

Presently the Alaska DPS operates the following aircraft;

2- Cessna 208 fixed wing.

2- Beech B200 fixed wing airplanes.

1- Cessna 206.

22- Piper PA-18 aircraft.

12 Cessna 185 aircraft.

1- Eurocopter AS350 helicopter.

3- Robinson R44 helicopters.

With it's 586,000 square miles of rugged land mass, and 36,000 miles of shore line, coupled with few roads and remote law enforcement outpost, many Alaska Troopers must be proficient pilots simply to patrol their areas of responsibility.  

Perhaps you have caught a recent episode of "Alaska State Troopers" on the National Geographic Channel.

Visit the Police Helicopter Pilot.com picture gallery for more photos of Alaska State Troopers Helicopters.



Alabama, Tuscaloosa Police Air Unit

The Tuscaloosa Alabama Police Department operates Bell OH58 helicopters, the military version of the Bell Jet Ranger. 

Tuscaloosa PD's helicopters are equipped with FLIR Cameras for maximum effectiveness during night patrols. 

In addition to routine patrol the air unit puts special emphasis on lake patrol, and patrolling shopping malls during peak holiday season to discourage crime. 

Alabama, Tuscaloosa County Sheriffs Aviation Unit

The Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Aviation Unit is a full service, fully equipped law enforcement air unit operating two Bell OH58 helicopters.  The unit is staffed by four deputy pilots, and three tactical flight officers. 

The Tuscaloosa Sheriff's Air Unit was first formed in 2000 and goes by the name E.A.G.L.E. which is an acronym for Effective Air Ground Law Enforcement.

Like most law enforcement air support units, the helicopters are used in a variety of missions to include; surveillance, patrol, search and rescue, and to assist in court case preparation. 

Unlike, some military surplus helicopters, the Tuscaloosa Sheriff's Aviation Unit helicopters are fully outfitted to include; moving map system, FLIR camera, MDT- Mobile Data Terminal, and full night vision goggle compatibility. 

Visit the Tuscaloosa Sheriff's Aviation Unit website here.

Alabama, Morgan County Sheriff's Air Patrol

The Morgan County Sheriff's Office headquartered in Decatur Al, operates a single Bell OH58 Helicopter primarily flown by Chief Pilot Danny McDaniel. 

According to the Morgan County Sheriff website, the helicopter is used for a variety of missions including surveillance, marijuana eradication, missing person searches and criminal investigations.  The helicopter is equipped with both a Night Sun and FLIR camera along with the capabilities of recording anything viewed on the camera. 

Alabama, Limestone County Sheriff's Air Support Unit

The Limestone County Alabama Sheriff's Office operates a single Bell OH58 government surplus helicopter primarily flown by Deputy Pilot Dean Murray. 

The helicopter was obtained at no cost to the taxpayers on Limestone County, and is at least partially funded by an annual Sheriff's Rodeo. 

The helicopter is primarily used for search and rescue and other specialized missions. 

You can view photos of the Limestone Co. Sheriff's Helicopter on the Sheriff's website.  Look for their helicopter under "Special Response Services- Air Support & Rescue."

Alabama, Jefferson County Sheriff's Aviation Unit

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, headquartered in Birmingham Alabama, operates two Bell OH58 helicopters.  The unit was first established on November 19th 2003 by Sheriff Mike Hale.  At the time Jefferson County was one of the largest metropolitan areas in the Country without aerial law enforcement capabilities.

In July of 2004 The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office took possession of two non flyable Bell OH58 helicopters from Fort Rucker through the Department Of Defense 1033 excess property to law enforcement agencies program. 

In 2005 the unit received $210,000 from the Department of Homeland Security and in early 2006 they received a $100,000 Technology Grant to upgrade the helicopter(s).  On May 3rd 3006 Pemco Aeroplex Inc. based at Birmingham International Airport, delivered "Star 1" to the department after a full external restoration. 

The primary mission of the Jefferson County Air Support Unit is to;

"Enhance county wide officer and public safety by providing effective aerial support to Jefferson County Law Enforcement Agencies and to enhance the effectiveness of federal, state, and local law enforcement units by providing airborne surveillance, drug eradication, observation and reporting of criminal activity."

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Aviation Unit is supported by approximately 25 Deputy Sheriff Reserve Volunteers. 

Alabama, Etowah County Sheriff's Aviation Unit

The Etowah County Sheriff's Office operates 1 Bell OH58 helicopter, and 1 Cessna 172 fixed wing aircraft.  The department took possession of the Bell Helicopter in January of 07, through the DOD.

According to the Etowah Sheriff's website, their aviation unit;

"Provides aerial support to the law enforcement mission of the ECSO. Consisting of a Bell OH-58 Helicopter and a C-172 Fixed wing airplane, pilots are able to quickly respond to remote areas of the county to assist in search and rescue, surveillance and other related law enforcement activities."

The Etowah County Sheriff's helicopter flies out of the Northeastern Alabama Regional Airport in Gadsden Al. 

Alabama, Dale County Sheriff's Office Aviation Unit

The Dale County Sheriff's Office has had an aviation unit since the 1980s.  In 2002 however they received their firs Bell OH58 helicopter from the US Department Of Defense.  The OH58 is the military version of the most popular civilian helicopter ever, the Bell Jet Ranger. 

The Dale County Sheriff's Aviation Unit has approximately 6 members, 2 of which are aircraft mechanics.  The unit operates a total of 3 Bell OH58s. 

According to the Dale County Sheriff's website, their primary mission is to "assist in search and rescue operations and counter-drug operations and is available to neighboring law enforcement agencies. The unit is also used to locate missing persons and aid in emergency situations."

Dale County Alabama is located in the south eastern part of the state just a short drive from both Florida and Georgia. 

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.

Alabama Department Of Public Safety Aviation Unit

The Alabama Department of Public Savety Air Unit is based out of the Montgomery Regional Airport (MGM) in Montgomery Alabama.  According to the department's website the unit was first formed in 1973. 

"In 1973 the Department received a Cessna T-41 single engine aircraft through State Department of Civil Defense. In August 1974, the Department acquired two Bell 47 helicopters. Four more model 47's were added in 1975. The aviation Unit was officially formed in June of 1975. Through the years, troopers have utilized a variety of aircraft. All but four of the current aircraft are either government surplus or were confiscated in drug cases."

Every pilot in the aviation unit is a sworn State Trooper with a minimum of 3 years in the Highway Patrol Division before being qualified for transfer into the unit.  Also, each pilot must stay current and is qualified to fly all aircraft in inventory of which there are several different types and airframes. 

Presently the Alabama Department of Public Safety operates the following aircraft; 

7 Bell OH58, 1 Bell 206l, 1 Bell 407 helicopter, 3 Cessna 182 fixed wing, 1 Piper PA-31, 1 Beech B200 airplane. 

Alabama DPS Aviation Unit missions include marijuana eradication, narcotics surveillance, traffic speed enforcement, missing person or man hunts, prisoner transports, law enforcement related executive protection flights, photo, and investigative flights.