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.

LVMPD Air Unit minimum requirements & training:

(The information on this page is for "informational" purposes only and is subject to change. This website does not represent any law enforcement agency or the official opinions, policies or procedures of any law enforcement agency).



To be selected to the LVMPD Air Support unit you must be a police officer with LVMPD for minimum of 4 years. While in the academy, recruits are in a civilian status until they graduate and take the oath. Thus a total of 4 years and 6 months from the time the recruit enters the academy.

Also candidates must have at a minimum a current private pilot's license and third class medical. The private pilot's license can be fixed wing or rotorcraft. No other ratings or certificates are required.

Once a candidate has the required amount of experience, the private pilot certificate and medical, they are eligible to submit a transfer request to the air unit. Normally new applications are accepted and testing occurs once a year.

Once the list of candidates has been established, there is an oral board interview conducted by the personnel bureau, which test the candidate’s knowledge base with respect to both aviation and police work. Candidates who pass the oral board are ranked on a list in order of how they scored.

Vacancies in the air unit are normally the result of retirements, promotions, or when an officer fails to complete either Tactical Flight Officer training, or flight training. The vacancy is filled by selecting a person from the established list of candidates. If there are no openings within one year of the list being established, then the list expires. A new testing process occurs and a new list is established. It is not uncommon for candidates to test multiple times prior to being selected to the LVMPD Air Unit.

The average length of police service in the air unit at present is 16.125 years. This represents officers who have 34 years of experience all the way down to officers with 8 years on the department. There have been officers selected into the unit with as little as 6 years on the department, however the average is closer to 8 to 10 years.

All new members of the unit come in as tactical flight officers (TFO’s). They will go through 16 weeks of tactical flight officer training taught from a department approved, (and soon to be Nevada Post Certified) training syllabus. This training is conducted by senior pilots and CFI's (certified flight instructor). During their training, the officers take several check rides with the chief pilot and senior CFI's to assure that they are meeting standards through the different phases of the training syllabus. This training is crucial. Unit leaders must know that the new officer can do the police work side of the helicopter before their flight training begins.

In addition the LVMPD Air Unit has two 60 day temporary duty assignment positions which are filled by officers who may or may not meet the minimum requirements (at the time) for the permanent position. This was established to allow officers to come into the unit and get a true perspective of how the air support unit operates IE; patrol missions surveillance, search and rescue missions, mountain top repeater site transport missions, training, etc. This gives the officer an excellent understanding of the unit which could help him/her to make a career goal decision, to meet the minimum qualifications for a permanent spot in the unit. It is also a great communication tool. The officers that leave the temporary position go back to their permanent unit, (patrol, detective bureau, etc), and pass on what they have learned. This way, other officers on the LVMPD learn by word of mouth, about the inner workings of the air unit and how it operates.

The temporarily assigned TFO goes through the first phase of TFO training and is evaluated in the first phase as if he/she were in a permanent position. If the temporary TFO fails the first phase of this training, then he/she can not test for our air support unit for a minimum of three years. This program has been so successful that there is talk of expanding our minimum qualifications for the permanent position to include having gone through the 60 day temporary TFO program.

Once an officer has passed his/her TFO final phase check ride, they are assigned to a CFI (certified flight instructor) and their flight training begins. The LVMPD uses their own flight training syllabus as well, which will also soon be Nevada Post Certified.

All helicopter flight training is accomplished utilizing a MD500D turbine aircraft. However, in the near future it is likely that all primary flight training will be conducted in the MD530F model. The flight training consists of 9 phases to go from no helicopter time, to private rotorcraft (add on) commercial pilot. This takes approximately 14 to 18 months depending on the student’s progress.

At the conclusion of each phase the Pilot Trainee is given a check ride by the chief pilot, to insure, that the student is at or above FAA standards. The student pilot will fly with several different CFI's as their training progresses. At the conclusion of the training the student is scheduled and completes the required oral interview and check ride given by an FAA examiner for the private rotorcraft/add on and then later the commercial rotorcraft. The officer has approximately 200 hours of turbine rotorcraft flight time when they take their commercial check ride. The new pilot must then build a total of 300 hours of PIC time flying patrol missions with a CFI .

At 300 PIC (pilot in command) hours, the officer is given their PIC sign off and can function as a junior patrol pilot. Further training continues IE: instrument rating, CT182RG commercial & instrument, out of valley sign offs day 500 hours, night 1000 hours, Bell 407 transition training 500 hours, night vision goggle PIC sign off 1000 hours, HH1H transition training 1000 hours, rescue pilot training minimum 2000 hours, CFI minimum 1000 hours, sling, hoist, live load etc. …….each continuing or advanced training is set by minimum required PIC hours of experience as well as capability.

As long as the police officer / pilots have the ability and the PIC time required, the possible certificates and ratings which an officer can obtain are as follows:

Private pilot certificate/add on: Rotorcraft or Fixed Wing (whichever one they did not already have).

Commercial pilot certificate: rotorcraft / fixed wing

Instrument rating: rotorcraft / fixed wing

Certified flight instructor: rotorcraft / fixed wing

CFII (Instrument instructor): rotorcraft / fixed wing

Not to mention all of the “sign-offs”, training and experience a LVMPD police pilot receives. On average LVMPD patrol pilots log between 400 to 550 hours annually, after receiving the PIC patrol sign off.