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To the academy? Or not to the academy?


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Hey guys,

I have just started with my flight training and I only have about 17 hours so far. My overall goal with a helicopter career is eventually to fly for law enforcement. I'm just trying to set my plan now so I know what's ahead of me whenever I get all of my certificates. I do not have police experience but I do have 7 years USMC experience as well as a degree in criminal justice(don't know if would help with the issue or not). Will I have to become a police officer before I can fly for a department?

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There are 3 initial questions to ask yourself if you are outside of LE looking at an air unit. Do they hire experienced pilots externally? Do they train their own pilots? Does the unit require prosp

Baltimore is hiring, but yes it's a Flight Officer (pilot), not a Tactical Flight Officer (observer) position. Flight Officers are hired externally. TFOs are done internally.   It's a long road, even

There is a book called Darker Shades of Blue : The Rogue Pilot that disects a lot of high profile accidents that were attributed to pilot attitudes and error. The Czar 52 bomber crash is a great case

When I looked into it, you had to be a "walk the beat" type of cop for two years before you could do anything else, even if you already are a pilot.

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Hey guys,

I have just started with my flight training and I only have about 17 hours so far. My overall goal with a helicopter career is eventually to fly for law enforcement. I'm just trying to set my plan now so I know what's ahead of me whenever I get all of my certificates. I do not have police experience but I do have 7 years USMC experience as well as a degree in criminal justice(don't know if would help with the issue or not). Will I have to become a police officer before I can fly for a department?

 

 

Given your military experience and edjumucation, different departments will ask different things of you in terms of how much time they'd like you to spend on the ground. Your best bet may be to consider whether or not being a regular cop for a year or so is something you're willing to do, and if so I'd get in touch with any LE (law enforcement) pilot you can, usually you can find online which cities have LE pilots and call the station to try talking to them directly about the hiring process.

 

In aviation, particularly in the rotary wing world, current pilots are one of the strongest and most valuable sources of information. Here is a LINK to an article by an LE pilot named Steve if you haven't already read it.

 

Nick

Edited by PlatoNC
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Look around. Not every agency is the same. I think for the most part the police agencies require you to be a foot cop prior to jumping into the cockpit. Like PlatoNC said, it also kind of depends on your background experience as well. Depending on your training and experience, you might only serve a year as a foot cop before going to the cockpit. The border patrol hires at 1500 hours, and does not require you to be a foot cop prior to getting into the cockpit. FBI is the opposite though I believe. You just need to look around. Every place is different.

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Hey guys,

I have just started with my flight training and I only have about 17 hours so far. My overall goal with a helicopter career is eventually to fly for law enforcement. I'm just trying to set my plan now so I know what's ahead of me whenever I get all of my certificates. I do not have police experience but I do have 7 years USMC experience as well as a degree in criminal justice(don't know if would help with the issue or not). Will I have to become a police officer before I can fly for a department?

 

I’m assuming by the fact your asking this question on a helicopter website that flying is more important then being a Police Officer. If so, please continue reading.

 

What I suggest to people like you is to pursue both agendas and plan for the long-term.

 

I suggest you start by getting CFII certification and try to gain employment as a Flight Instructor. Once employed, build your PIC time to a respectable amount and after that, seek the LE thing.

 

If anything, remember this, DO NOT rely on a department to fulfill your aviation goals. If you do, you need to understand it’s a gamble, at best.

 

In my opinion, it’s one thing to be a helicopter pilot wishing you were a cop. It’s a completely different thing to be a cop wishing you were a pilot.

 

Lastly, and this should go without saying, if and when you choose a department, choose one that has an established Air Support Unit with a significant fleet. This will better you odds getting a PIC seat.

 

Good luck.

 

Spike

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I'm also interested in flying LE and just getting started with flying and college classes now. I have LE experience from 4 years USCG, which hopefully will count for something though probably not much. The best advice I think is to start getting in touch with pilots at some different departments/agencies you may be interested in. Back in FL I called every LE air unit I could find to get information from them. I would mostly ask about their mission, history, hiring process, number of aircraft and pilots, preferred experience, TFO positions, any upcoming retirements, etc. Most were very helpful and only a couple made me feel like I was wasting their time since I didn't have experience. At least one unit offered to try and arrange a ride along with one of their pilots.

 

The vast majority of units I spoke with required time as a patrolman with their agency before being eligible to apply to the air wing. I'd say on average they wanted about 5 years on patrol, plus at least a private pilot's license. Though almost all units said their last few pilots came on with closer to 10 years with their agency. Then there are a small percentage of departments that hire high time helicopter pilots, without the requirement for LE experience. I think most of those are non-sworn positions where you will fly their TFO's, but usually require about 2,000 hours.

 

There are some great resources out there, this being one of them. I've spoken to one LE pilot on here who was very helpful answering all my questions. Another great place to look on the web is the Airborne Law Enforcement Association (www.alea.org). If you get the chance to attend an American Heroes Airshow (www.heroes-airshow.com) it is a great way to network with some different agencies and see their equipment up close.

 

And back to the part about working the street first. Make sure you have no problems serving as a cop/police officer/agent/etc. Everyone tells me the same thing that there is no guarantee that you will ever fly with that agency. But the best way to increase your odds is by being an outstanding officer and creating a good reputation for yourself as being squared away.

 

Well good luck with it, sounds like you have a good background. The criminal justice degree with military experience would probably help a lot getting on with a federal agency (FBI, DEA, CBP, etc.) if that's what you so desire. To me personally it sounds like S.A./Pilot for the DEA is about the best gig out there. Oh ya, I keep reading about a lot of small local air units being disbanded because of budget concerns. Might be better looking into larger operations than the ones with a single Army surplus OH58.

 

p.s. the attachment is an interesting report i found from the DOJALEAreport.pdf

Edited by rjl2001
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Rjl2001, You are on the right track...and have the right mindset....one resource that is a pretty good wealth of information is www.policehelicopterpilot.com there is several sections that discuss getting a job as a LE pilot...

 

 

Ryan

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  • 4 years later...

Hey, for me, the next best thing to flying a police helicopter was driving a police car...there is simply no other job like it. Just get on with a dept with a good size, well established aviation unit. Then, develop as many friendships with the members of that unit as you can. Hanging out on hangar cleaning days and dropping by with coffee and donuts also helps!

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Timing is everything AND you have to know how to play well with others...

 

Being in the right place at the right time also helps... Our Air Support Unit had been comprised of mostly Vietnam Vet era Pilots. When they all started pulling the pin at about 55 years and 30 years of service, the department started scrambling for the Cops who had PPLs. But, just because you are a Pilot, doesn't always mean you have the ability to work effectively with a flight crew.

 

My department was critically aware of the fact that when you put a high workload on the Pilot (flying in SoCal airspace, keeping separation and contact with ENG flights overhead, and keeping the TFO in position to see the bad guys in a pursuit) and the TFO (chasing bad guys, operating 3-4 radios, FLIR, nightsun, moving map, etc.) the people HAVE to work well together.

 

I believe if you have been a CFI or have been an FTO (field training officer) with a few years experience under your belt, you understand how to deal with difficult personalities and how to make the best of obvious conflicting personality traits.

 

Our department did not put up with the 8,000 hour Pilot who consistently could not get along with other TFOs, whether they were fellow pilots or trained Observers from department ranks. Being a high time, well trained Pilot was not good enough. The expectation was that you must work with any well trained crew member, whether you "liked" that person, or not.

 

Since the post was resurrected, there's MTCW.

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Getting along is key to a safe and successful operation. With that, the folks who seem to have a hard time getting along are of the “mega-ego” variety and usually cause a “hostile cockpit” environment. When this happens, the level of risk increases, the overall mission goals decline and stats suffer. Hostile cockpits are a result of weak leadership and operational mismanagement….. Mega-ego’s should not be tolerated and removed from the operation…..

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There is a book called Darker Shades of Blue : The Rogue Pilot that disects a lot of high profile accidents that were attributed to pilot attitudes and error. The Czar 52 bomber crash is a great case study of attitudes and egos. To really understand it, you have to get into the details of how the pilot was promoted, protected and somehow ended up as the Chief of Standards and Eval for his Squadron, even when no other pilots would fly with him.

Edited by Flying Pig
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Pig,

 

Funny you mention that. I was just loaned a copy of that book from an EMS pilot here in Georgia. There are several units out there that hire civillian pilots or former LE pilots. Fairfax county and Maryland State police being 2 I can think of off the top of my head. But from the horses mouth, one of the long time pilots there when asked about hiring said to me. "we'd rather have an average pilot that we can train got be a good pilot that is a blast to hang out with and we get along with than a 10K pilot who can fly the doors off any aircraft but is a total dick" You can't get more sound advice than that. I have seen many units where one sour grape tends to put the bitter flavor through a whole flight operation. Getting along is key.

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Pig,

 

Funny you mention that. I was just loaned a copy of that book from an EMS pilot here in Georgia. There are several units out there that hire civillian pilots or former LE pilots. Fairfax county and Maryland State police being 2 I can think of off the top of my head. But from the horses mouth, one of the long time pilots there when asked about hiring said to me. "we'd rather have an average pilot that we can train got be a good pilot that is a blast to hang out with and we get along with than a 10K pilot who can fly the doors off any aircraft but is a total dick" You can't get more sound advice than that. I have seen many units where one sour grape tends to put the bitter flavor through a whole flight operation. Getting along is key.

I know a guy who was an amazing helicopter pilot. He was working for an EMS company and one day came into work and the base manager told him to pack his things and to come and pick up his final paycheck. Basically everyone at the base said "him or us" He dominated the on-duty housing.... hogged the TV remote and was continually talking to the other pilots like he was their instructor. He has a job now where he's basically by himself flying. By the time you get to the level where you are competitive for EMS or other positions that involve crews, its probably safe to assume you can fly unless you are just completely lying on your resume. Beyond that, nobody wants to come to work and be in a constant state of man-made stress. Ive worked with guys where EVERYTHING is a competition... I mean everything! Who eats the fastest, who gets the front seat in the car, when we are in a group... that person has to be out in front and get to the door first.... No thanks. Go stroke out at an early age on your own time. That same stress carries over to the cockpit whether you believe it does or not. Operational stress... stress induced because of a tense mission, sure thats a given. But there is absolutely no need for stress induced purely because of peoples egos and personalities. If your dad didnt hug you enough as a kid, see a psychologist. Its generally a failure of the leadership who doesn't step on the neck from the first sign of a pilot trying to dominate. Of course... if that person is the "leadership" you may have some decisions to make.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I am training for my PVT under 141, getting close to my final stage check. I intend on going for my commercial immediately after obtaining my PVT license.

 

I am also simultaneously going thru the application process for the Philly police department.

 

I am currently of the opinion that since the city is sort of broke but has an aviation unit that just got 3 new as350's last summer that i will be a good candidate for them after i do my time on the streets.

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That's your thought huh? Philly PD is broke but has 3 AStars? Sounds like a winning combination.
Have you ever heard the word "politics"? Id venture to guess philly PD could care less about a Rookie with a commercial. Do They train their own pilots or require a rating to get in?

Step one, get hired. Most LE careers are like a bullet ricocheting off a rock....you never know where it will end up. Since you are just getting started in this whole LE thing, I will tell you that unless you are actually hired specifically to be a pilot, the odds are stacked against you. Not to deter you, but from your post you convey the feeling that because you have a license makes you the go-to guy for an agency the size of Philadelphia PD. In several cases in LE, you having a license could actually be a detriment to your career or it could be a blessing. If you get hired I would suggest you keep the pilots license tucked away and quiet until you figure out what kind of agency PPD is. Good Luck.

Edited by Flying Pig
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Lol, you sound like such a frickin cop

 

Yea i'm familiar with politics, and those AS350's where purchased thru a grant program from the FEDS. The city is still broke, and i'd imagine the funding required to train a pilot within the department would be on the city's dime.

 

And no duh a frickin department of that size could care less about some rookie with a license. I am well aware I gotta do my time on the streets, and at the very least serve thru my probationary period.

 

And if while I am PPD and it turns out I don't have a chance to get into that unit for a while I can't just look into a lateral move into a department that does?

 

Internal Affairs is gonna be aware of my PVT license because I am requested to put that down on the questionnaire, and its not like I gonna walk on up to my supervisor the first day and show him my license and remind it of him every time I see him.

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Lol, you sound like such a frickin cop

 

Yea i'm familiar with politics, and those AS350's where purchased thru a grant program from the FEDS. The city is still broke, and i'd imagine the funding required to train a pilot within the department would be on the city's dime.

 

And no duh a frickin department of that size could care less about some rookie with a license. I am well aware I gotta do my time on the streets, and at the very least serve thru my probationary period.

 

And if while I am PPD and it turns out I don't have a chance to get into that unit for a while I can't just look into a lateral move into a department that does?

 

Internal Affairs is gonna be aware of my PVT license because I am requested to put that down on the questionnaire, and its not like I gonna walk on up to my supervisor the first day and show him my license and remind it of him every time I see him.

 

If you want to be a Police Officer for PPD, then I’d say you’re headed in the right direction. However, if you’re ultimate goal is to fly Airborne Law Enforcement, with 3 machines parked, it’s fairly obvious PPD is not the place to go…..

 

When departments “say” they can’t operate an air unit because the agency is broke, they do so to look favorably in the public’s eye. The reality is, the agency doesn’t value what an air unit brings

to the overall operation and because of this, they often mismanage the resource. While I’m not intimately familiar with the PPD situation, I am familiar with other ALE operators who’ve either scaled back operations or ceased to operate altogether. The common thread amongst all of them is organizational mismanagement and the stance that the aircraft are expendable when budgets fall short. Law Enforcement management and aviation management mix like oil and water and why machines get parked…….

 

BTW, the Pig dude is correct…… On all counts…. Good luck……

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