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Just looking for a little help.

 

I am currently a Commercial/CFI rated helicopter pilot and working as a full time CFI with 900 hours PIC. I was a Deputy Sheriff for six years prior. My CA POST is still valid for another year and I am interested in becoming a LE helicopter pilot in CA. What is the best way to find LE pilot job openings in CA, or elsewhere for that matter? I realize that many departments only hire within and train their own people. My current POST and clean background would allow me to be sworn in as a peace officer, or maybe a civilian LE pilot position would be better suited for someone who is not already part of a big agency. Of course I would rather not work the street prior to flight duty if possible, but I know about "paying your do's". Any advice or suggestions would be appreciated, thanks.

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Heli-Sky,

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but I think it would be extremely difficult for you to get an aviation slot in a CA law enforcement agency without current street time.  I would estimate that 80% of CA agencies hire deputies or police officers from within the Department.  To do that you usually need time on the street and time for the agency to get to know you before you are selected for aviation.  Your experience would definitely give you a leg up on the competition.  As for the 20% that hire civilian pilots I do not think you would meet the minimum requirements.  A quick search of the ALEA database and the lowest qualification I could find was 1000 PIC, 250 turbine.  Most want 1500 to 2500 PIC and 500 to 1000 turbine, Comm, CFI and Inst. ratings.  Talk to Flying Pig, I think he just recently lateralled to a new dept. and got a TFO slot which is the first step up to a pilot position.  Outside of CA you have a better shot. Florida seems to have job openings all the time.  A few others are Baltimore City and County.

 

If you really want to fly for law enforcement you are going to need to get back in the profession full time and fly on the side.  Just my two cents.  Never say never and there are a dozen ways to get jobs.  Sometimes it is just a right place right time issue.  Good Luck.

 

PS Check all through this LE forum as 20 others have asked the same question and you can find good advice in there as well.

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HELI-SKY ,

    There are many Florida agencies that could use more pilots, my agency has had an open pilot's slot for three years (although I just finished a student who is filling the slot). Eagle1 is exactly right though, you are normally going to have to work the street first. I would say that one to three years is going to be the norm with someone with your flying experience (may be more, may be less time depending upon the agency and the need for a pilot). There are those agencies around that do hire from outside but from what I have seen they require basically the same minimum experience levels that EMS operators require which is going to leave you out of the running.

    I know you are looking for a CA LEO slot, but you might think about looking around outside CA, you probably could find an agency out there where you would fit the bill and you may not have to work the street. Look into the state POST board and take a comparative compliance test in the state that you are looking in and you might just get in.

    If you can't find anything in CA that would allow you to get directly into a pilot's slot I would recommend getting hired as a street officer/deputy in an agency that has a air unit and work the street. With your qualifications I would say it is only a matter of time before you got out to the air unit. You can continue to instruct part time on the side and build hours. Unless you want to go through another full academy I would not let your POST certification lapse. I don't know how CA POST works, but here in Florida you could get on as a reserve officer and work part time with an agency and that would keep your LEO certification current, you might think about that if it looks like your not finding anything right away.

    What ever you do, I wish you the best of luck. I can tell you that I would love to see someone with your qualifications hired by my agency. It makes our jobs much easier come training time. Just a piece of advice though; No matter where you go, don't make it public that you don't want to work the street if you have to do time there before you go out to the air unit. Try to be the best street cop you can be and have a positive attitude while you are there. Attitude is everything which you no doubt know from your street experience in the past.

 

Good Luck,

Jeff

 

P.S. Take a look at the ALEA website, they have openings posted there with some frequency.

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Thanks for the info guys. By the way, why are some agencies pilot hour requirements fairly high, ie 2000 PIC, etc. and some agencies low, like MESA, AZ PD at only 500 hours required?(according to their website add) A lot of public service agencies are self insured, or do some have regular aviation insurance companies that cover the air unit? This is of course assuming the hour requirements are dictated by insurance companies and not department policy. Just curious.
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Many agencies are self insured and also have insurance policies from other aviation insurance companies.  Mesa uses all police pilots which are usually trained from within.  Their qualifications might be lower because the new pilots are still flying with more experienced pilots acting as flight officers.  In our unit the same is true.  Our ins. co. dictates a minimum of 500 PIC to fly without a CFI.  So even with 500 hours a pilot is still flying with other pilots, just not CFI's.  This means they have an experienced pilot with them who might offer advice or guidance when things get hairy. We do not let them do long line or bucket drops until they have 1,500 PIC.

 

Agencies who are hiring a civilian pilot need higher qualifications because they are flying with non pilots who may not have the experience necessary to help a less experienced pilot  There are many times when we as pilot crews use CRM to talk things out and come up with a game plan in new or unusual situations.

 

I was a TFO for 6 years before I got my rating.  I had around 500 hours of "stick time on the side" with the basics, take off, landings, orbits etc.  Even with over 6000 hours in the TFO position it still took me about 1,000 to 1,500 hours as PIC to start to feel reasonably competent. Even with 3,500 hours and my CFI there are still times I seek guidance from the guys with, 500 hours and the guys with 10,000 hours.

 

Anyhow I hope I answered the question.

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One other thing also impacts some agencies hour requirements and that is the fact they fly EMS missions as well. The dual LEO/EMS flying agencies usually have the same requirments that the dedicated EMS folks do. Just an educated guess here, but that is probably driven by two factors, insurance and the larger equipment they have to fly to do the mission (I refer again to "insurance").

Jeff

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