I was recently contacted by Mr. Patrick Callaghan, a research assistant with Washington D.C. based business-to-government-consulting firm NSI- National Strategies.
Mr. Callaghan had been tasked with researching and compiling a list of the 25 largest law enforcement aviation units in the U.S., and was asking for input. Unfortunately I was not much help, as I had never compiled such a list nor was I aware of a current and accurate list. Patrick ended up listing the top 39 aviation units. I felt the list should be rounded out to 40 so I added one unit (see below.)
Here is how Mr. Callaghan compiled the list:
“Method: Ms. Lynn Langton of the Bureau of Justice Statistics published a report in 2009 on US law enforcement agencies that had aviation units and a minimum of 100 sworn personnel. The numbers accrued in her report were from 2007. I identified the top 50 largest air fleets from her report and conducted research on each agency to deduce their updated fleet sizes. I narrowed this list to approximately 40 agencies and then organized them in a list from largest to smallest.”
Mr. Callaghan used available online/public resources for the most current information on unit sizes including unit websites or articles from industry magazines such as Policemag.com.
Mr. Callaghan also pointed out that “the data are from different points in time and thus changes in fleet size/order of the list are variable and may have changed.”
Note- Mr. Callaghan’s list did not include the U.S. Customs & Border Protection Office of Air and Marine whose unit website puts their total number of aircraft at over 250. This is most likely because he was compiling a list of State and Local Police Agencies Air Support Units, not Federal Agencies.
The remainder of the list, from Alaska Dept. of Public Safety to Illinois State Police Air Operations is the sole work of Mr. Patrick Callaghan and NSI.
Number 1 on the list from Police Helicopter Pilot.com is;
U.S. Customs & Border Protection Office of Air and Marine, a Federal Agency, with 250 aircraft! Add the Office of Air and Marine to the below list and you have the top 40 Law Enforcement Air Support Units in the U.S.
Here is Mr. Callaghan's and NSI's top 39 Air Support Units in the U.S.
Aviation Unit Total Aircraft
1. Alaska Dept. Of Public Safety 40
2. California Highway Patrol- Air Ops 30
3. Texas Dept. of Public Safety-Air Ops 23
4. Los Angeles Police Dept. Air Support 20
5. New York State Police Aviation Unit 19
6. Los Angeles Co. Sheriff's Dept. Aero Bureau 18
7. Georgia State Patrol Aviation Division 16
8. Ohio State Patrol Aviation Section 16
9. Alabama State Trooper Aviation Unit (DPS) 14
10. Pennsylvania State Police Aviation 14
11. San Bernardino Co. Sheriff's Aviation Unit 14
12. City of Phoenix Police Dept. Air Support 13
13. Houston Police Dept. Helicopter Patrol Unit 13
14. Maryland State Police Aviation Command 12
15. Lousiana State Police Air Support Unit 11
16. Oklahoma Highway Patrol Aircraft Div. 11
17. Kansas Highway Patrol Air Support Div. 10
18. Florida Highway Patrol Aviation Unit 9
19. North Carolina State Highway Patrol Air Ops 9
20. Kern County Sheriff's Dept. Air Support 8
21. Las Vegas Metropolitan P.D. Air Support 8
22. Minnesota State Patrol Aviation 8
23. New Jersey State Police Aviation Bureau 8
24. New York City (NYPD) Police Aviation Unit 8
25. San Diego Sheriff's Aviation Unit (ASTREA) 8
26. Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Aviation Unit 7
27. Metro Nashville Police Aviation Section 7
28. Miami-Dade Police Dept. Aviation Unit 7
29. St. Louis Police Metro Air Support Unit 7
30. Washington State Patrol Aviation Unit 7
31. Columbus Oh, Division of Police Helicopter Unit 6
32. Indiana State Police Aviation Section 6
33. Massachusetts State Police Air Wing 6
34. St. Louis County Police Metro Air Support Unit 6
35. Tennessee Highway Patrol Special Operations 6
36. Virginia State Police Aviation Unit 6
37. Arizona Department of Public Safety Aviation 5
38. Deleware State Police Aviation Section 5
39. Illinois State Police Air Operations 5
It would be easy to argue that one particular unit should be higher on the list than another. Even my old unit, San Diego Sheriff's ASTREA will go from 8 to 9 helicopters later this year when they take delivery of their 3rd Bell 205A1++ Fire/Rescue Helicopter.
In my opinion the best way to utilize this list is as a "general guide", not an absolute ranking.
I could see this list being very useful to a young person planning for a police career with hopes of moving into the aviation unit one day.
Thanks to NSI of Washington D.C. for allowing Police Helicopter Pilot.com to publish their work!