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Flying for a Fire Department


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A year ago I left my job as assistant chief instructor at a helicopter flight school to become a city firefighter as a means of stability and support for my wife and kids. I love virtually everything about being a firefighter. However, it's killing me not to fly, and part-time instructing would require a lot of driving and time away from home (flight school is 50 miles away). If I had hopes of ever flying for a City/County Fire Dept, do I stand the best chance by remaining a firefighter and trying to get hired on a dept with an aviation unit, or am I better off continuing to fly full-time. I know most police agencies train their own officers to be pilots, but I gather that this may not be the case with the few fire departments that have aviation units. Any thoughts?

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Do a search on this subject as we have discussed it before. Every department is different. There are 3 scenarios. Private non sworn pilots working as a pilot for a public agency (this model is still used in SkyNight-Lakewood, CA.) today. Public agency sworn employees that are not FF's but high time pilots brought into the unit (Think LA County Fire-Blackhawks and 412's) or Public agency sworn FF employees with a private pilot license brought into the aviation unit and trained to be fire pilots. Often they have under 100 hours when hired. (Think LA Sheriff, LA City Fire). In the case of LASD, they start as observers, train, get their commercial, and build time; when they hit 500 hours they could be flying the AStars. With LAFD they fly the 206B3 to build time and act as observation ships....then move into the 412's and then the 139's.


Everybody does it different. Focus on one or two units and get known. Go fly some tours on the weekend to keep your skills up and build time. Join some local helicopter organizations. In the LA Area, you can meet all the local CP's for the public agencies in just one or two events. There is a reason you joined the department you did.....hopefully you are gaining seniority at a department where you want to fly...if so, go meet the Chief Pilot of that unit and find out what their "rules" are. Most will require 5 years on as a FF or Deputy/officer before applying.

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