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: air support

California, Orange County Sheriff's Department Air Support Bureau

Orange County Sheriff Helicopter on the ASTREA ramp, Gillespie Field Ca. on a cross country training flight.The Orange County Sheriff's Department's Air Support Unit flies out of the John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Santa Ana California, so it is appropriate that their two Eurocopter AS 350 helicopters go by the call signs "Duke I" and "Duke II" while on patrol.

The unit began operations in 1985 with two MD500E helicopters but eventually transitioned to the MD600N (no tail rotor) helicopters in 1998.  The MD600N was a faster and much quieter helicopter than the 500E.  The Orange County Sheriff's Department was the first police agency in the country to place the MD600N into service as a police patrol helicopter.  In 2005 the unit began their transition to the helicopters they operate today, two American Eurocopter AS 350B2 (Astar) helicopters.  

The Aviation Support Unit is currently staffed with one Sergeant and eight Deputy Sheriff II's. All of which are are very experienced law enforcement officers with a wide range of aviation and law enforcement experience. The average Unit member is 46 years old and has 22 years of law enforcement experience. Each pilot holds a FAA Airline Transport Pilot or a Commercial Pilot's Certificate with a rotorcraft-helicopter rating and has an average flight time in excess of 7,000 hours.

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.

Ca.- Kern County Sheriff's Dept. Air Support Unit

Located in the southern Central Valley of California the Kern County Air Support Unit boast approximately 13 sworn members and operate a total of 6 aircraft;  Two MD500E Helicopters, two Bell OH58 Helicopters, and two Cessna fixed wing aircraft, a Cessna 210 and a Cessna 206. 

In 2008 Kern Co. Sheriff's took delivery of a Bell Huey II helicopter from Bell Helicopters.  According to a Bell Helicopter press release Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood was quoted as saying; 

"This Huey II helicopter will increase our capability to transport law enforcement personnel (SWAT), conduct search and rescue operations and aid in environmental disaster operations across the wide spectrum of terrain found in the county."

Based at Meadows Field, in the county seat of Bakersfield Ca., the Kern Co. Sheriff's Air Support Unit supports the men and woman on patrol throughout Kern Co. 7- days a week. 

Kern Co. Sheriff MD500E patrol helicopter. photo courtesy 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, Butte County Sheriff's Office

Butte County is located in the Central Valley, in northern California.  The county seat is Oroville, Ca.  The county covers an area of approximately 1677 square miles.

The Butte County Sheriff's Air Support Unit owns and operates 1- Cessna 182 fixed wing, 1- OH6 helicopter, and 1- OH-58 helicopter.  Butte County Sheriff's Department pilots are sworn deputy sheriff's.  

One of the air support unit's primary missions is marijuana eradication.  The following is from a news media release by the Butte Co. Sheriff's Office regarding one of their eradication missions in August of 09.

"In early July, a marijuana grow was located in Butte County near the Plumas County line during aerial reconnaissance flights. On 8/5/09 Deputies from the Marijuana Unit along with Sheriff’s deputies entered the illegal marijuana grow located on U.S. Forest Service
land. The marijuana grow was west of Highway 70 just before the first tunnel driving from Oroville to Quincy. The terrain was extremely steep and difficult to climb. While deputies cleared the garden area suspect(s) fled from them and escaped. Upon searching the camping area of the garden, deputies found two sleeping bags and .380 hollow point
ammunition. The suspect(s) had dammed up a nearby creek and siphoned water from that creek into two holding pools above the garden area. The garden was being hand watered through black pipe from those holding pools. Additional officers were brought into the garden to assist in cutting down all the marijuana plants. Part of the garden had already been harvested prior to this raid. Other marijuana plants appeared ready to be harvested with an anticipated ongoing harvest to continue for the next few weeks. Deputies cut down and removed 5,996 marijuana plants (with an estimated street value of $23,984,000) from this garden. The marijuana plants were removed from the garden with the assistance of the Butte County Sheriff’s helicopter. The marijuana was subsequently destroyed.
The public is encouraged to report suspicious activity they believe is related to illegal marijuana operations to the Butte County Sheriff’s Marijuana Unit at 538-7389. You can remain anonymous." 

Source of the media release was Sgt. Steve Collins.

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.

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.