Los Angeles Police Air Support Division

Los Angeles Police Air Support Division

The Los Angeles Police Department Air Support Division boasts the second largest fleet of police aircraft in the United StatesFact|date=June 2008. People often mistake the Los Angeles Police Air Support Division for having the largest fleet of police aircraft in the world, however, several other police agencies have larger fleets such as Germany's Federal Police called Bundespolizei which operates over 76 helicopters, the South African Police Service with about 40 helicopters and 10 airplanes and the Policia Nacional del Peru with almost 30 airplanes and helicopters. The Los Angeles Police Air Support Division currently operates about 18 aircraft of 4 different models. Still, the LAPD maintains the largest municipal police aviation unit around the world, in addition to having the world's largest roof-top airport and world's busiest heliport.


The Air Support Division traces its roots back to 1956 when the city of Los Angeles began operating a single Hiller UH-12J. The helicopter was assigned to the Traffic Enforcement Division and was used to patrol the cities freeway system. The helicopter flew 775 hours in its first year alone.

In 1963 the city bought a second helicopter and in 1965 a third was added. The city operated Bell 47G and 47J model helicopters. In 1968 a turbine powered Bell 206A was added to the fleet. The turbine powered helicopter decreased response times and led the "Helicopter Unit" to start responding to unusual occurrences and other emergencies.

In 1974 the unit was expanded and became formally known as the Air Support Division. The Los Angeles Police Department was an exclusive operator of Bell products for 20 years until 1988 when the city purchased Aerospatiale (Now Eurocopter) AS-350B1s. The city replaced all but 4 of the Bell 206 JetRangers and retired the older piston models.


Today the Air Support Division consists of 77 sworn personnel and 17 helicopters which include four Bell 206B3 JetRangers, 12 Eurocopter AS-350B2 AStars, one Bell UH-1H Huey and one Beechcraft King Air 200 twin-engined airplane. [ [http://www.lapdonline.org/home/content_basic_view/1179 official website of THE LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT ] ]

The city of Los Angeles briefly flew a fleet of Bell 407s in the late 1990s as a replacement for the AS-350B1s. However, in 2000 the LAPD started replacing the 407s with more powerful AS-350B2s. Two of the 407s were sold to the General Services Department which uses the helicopters on flights for the Department of Water and Power.

During the late 1980s, the Bell 47G helicopters were primarily used for training. Once those aircraft were retired in 1988 the division was left without any aircraft in which to train new pilots. The city was able to acquire decommissioned aircraft from the U.S. Army through the Department of Defense and used them for several years until it was determined by the Federal Aviation Administration that ex-military aircraft could not be used for primary flight training.


The Air Support Division operates from the Hooper Memorial Heliport located on the roof of Piper Technical Center located at 555 Ramirez Street in Los Angeles. Maintenance is conducted at the city of Los Angeles Helicopter Maintenance hangar located at Van Nuys airport (VNY) The division dedicates most of its missions to assist patrol officers through ASTRO (Air Support To Regular Operations). These are flights where an aircrew will response to routine calls where they may be able to assist ground officers. Other flights are flown to support detectives, surveillences, SWAT, training, VIP transport and homeland security.

A typical aircrew consists of two police officers. One acts as the pilot in command while the other acts as a tactical flight officer (TFO). Both officers have an enormous workload. The pilot is responsible for the safe operation of the aircraft during the mission. He must fly the aircraft, maintain communication with air traffic control and/or other aircraft operating in the vicinity and be vigilant to avoid operating too close to other aircraft. In addition the pilot will, when able, provide critical information to media pilots who are reporting the news during a newsworthy event and assist the TFO when able.

The TFO is responsible for monitoring several different police channels, communicating with ground officers, operating the FLIR imager and a 30 million candlelight power nightsun searchlight as well as operating the microwave downlink system equipped on certain helicopters. The TFO will assist the pilot as needed and when able.

LAPD maintain a major business partnership with both Eurocopter and Motorola.

With a complete Control Tower, LAPD Air Support staff maintains radio contact with LAX Int'l Airport while dictating flight paths for small aircraft around the city of Los Angeles. Some of Air Support's operations are based in the San Fernando Valley's Van Nuys Airport,the busiest regional airport in the country. During a study conducted by NASA, it was discovered that by having an air unit over a specific district of Los Angeles, that crime is immediately dropped 60% in that district or geographical police division. At all times LAPD ASD has 3 airborne "AIRSHIPS" with 2 on stand-by at Hooper. Annually LAPD ASD flies on over 7,000 felony calls per year and assists officer's on the ground in over 12,000 arrests per year. 30 seconds to 1 minute and 30 seconds is the average response time for an AIRSHIP to get overhead of the scene of a call. On board an LAPD AIRSHIP, the "Emergency Trigger" can be used to maintain contact with police officers,sheriff deputies and highway patrol officers anywhere in the convert|470|mi2|km2 of Los Angeles City and throughout the convert|3000|mi2|km2 of Los Angeles County. The trigger is also used by LAX's FAA security staff to alert LAPD ASD to intercept aircraft that fail to maintain radio communication and those who fly into the Los Angeles No-Fly Zone. Once over the scene of a call, an AIRSHIP can immediately transmit Live video of a specific location to supervisors on the ground both in police cruisers and at police stations. AIRSHIPS are often asked to handle calls by themselves in a city where police calls are constantly back logged. In a typical response for example, a commercial burglary, a robbery in-progress or even in the event of a large crowd gathering, within 30seconds to 1 minute 30 seconds an AIRSHIP is already overhead and can be relaying visual information to responding ground units as well as dictating how fast the units should get there and how many should come at all along with picking individual units on the ground by their SHOP numbers and redirecting them exactly where to pull up and stop once on scene. When by themselves, an air crew, which consists of a Pilot and a Tactical Flight Officer (Observer) by using the Public Address(PA) system, they can order those on the ground to example "Go/stay inside for your safety" or "Stop where you are and wait for a black & white to come to you" or anything along the lines of "the police will be there soon and to go ahead and surrender"! All of this can and will be transmitted into spanish also.


The Air Support Division no longer flies the UH-1H Huey and is currently working on replacing it with a Bell 412. The helicopter will provide more capabilities, more capacity and will be safer due to its dual engine design.

The LAPD is slowly starting to replace the older AStars with new ones and giving them a new black and white plaint job as opposed to the current silver and dark metallic blue.


On the morning of Sunday, April 20, 2008, around 11:00 a.m., an LAPD Bell 206B-3 JetRanger (N212LA) made an emergency landing on San Vicente Boulevard in the city of West Hollywood in front of the Los Angeles County Library. The cause for the landing was an illuminated oil pressure warning light which warned the pilot, Ofc. Michelle Blackstone, of a possible impending engine failure. The helicopter was landed safely with no injuries to the crew or people on the ground. LAPD mechanics were summoned to the scene where an inspection was conducted and the helicopter was flown away after the aircraft was determined safe to fly. [ [http://cbs2.com/local/LAPD.Helicopter.Emergency.2.704236.html cbs2.com - LAPD Helicopter Makes Emergency Landing In WeHo ] ]

On the evening of Friday, May 25, 2007, around 11:00 p.m., an LAPD helicopter made a precautionary landing in a vacant lot at 58th and Hoover Streets in South Los Angeles when it struck a metallic nylon ballon which got caught in the main rotor system. No one was injured in the incident and once the rotor stopped turning the ballon fell to the ground. The helicopter was not damaged. [ [http://cbs2.com/local/metallic.nylon.balloon.2.531664.html cbs2.com - LAPD Chopper Strikes Balloon, Lands In South L.A ] ]

On the early morning of Tuesday, September 19, 2006, an LAPD Eurocopter AS-350B2 AStar was assisting Harbor Area Division ground officers in the Wilmington area when an oil pressure light illuminated and the pilot decided to make a precautionary landing in a field across the Harbor Division police station. [ [http://cbs2.com/video/?id=25340@kcbs.dayport.com cbs2.com - Video Library ] ]

On the afternoon of February 13, 2006, an LAPD Bell 206B-3 JetRanger (N211LA) made an emergency landing at the Hawthorne Municipal Airport in Hawthorne, CA after experiencing a hydraulic failure. The helicopter was not damaged and an LAPD mechanic was flown to the scene to make repairs. [ [http://cbs2.com/local/LAPD.Helicopter.Emergency.2.513329.html cbs2.com - LAPD Helicopter Makes Emergency Landing ] ]

Fatal Accidents

On June 13, 1991 Police Officers Gary Alan Howe and Charles Randall Champe were killed when they experienced an in-flight engine failure which caused their helicopter to crash into a parking lot. They were flying one of the newer Aerospatiale AS-350B1 helicopters (U.S. registraion N214LA). [ [http://www.odmp.org/officer/227-police-officer-gary-alan-howe Police Officer Gary Alan Howe, Los Angeles Police Department ] ] [ [http://www.odmp.org/officer/226-police-officer-charles-randall-champe Police Officer Charles Randall Champe, Los Angeles Police Department ] ]

On March 1, 1983 Reserve Police Officer Taira was killed as a result of a police helicopter crash. Reserve Officer Taira, an observer for the helicopter unit, and two other officers were conducting aerial patrols following a tornado. In between patrols the officers were dispatched to investigate a report of a burglar on a roof. As the helicopter took off it struck a power line, causing it to crash. The officers survived the initial impact and Reserve Officer Taira was able to exit the aircraft. Reserve Officer Taira then returned to the aircraft in an attempt to rescue his two partners. One of the helicopter's rotors struck Reserve Officer Taira in the head, killing him. Reserve Officer Taira was posthumously awarded the department's Medal of Valor. [ [http://www.odmp.org/officer/13079-reserve-officer-stuart-s.-taira Reserve Officer Stuart S. Taira, Los Angeles Police Department ] ]

On June 11, 1976 Officer Jeffrey B. Lindenberg was killed when the Bell 47G-5 helicopter (U.S. registraion N7085J) he was training in lost power and crashed while landing. Officer Lindenberg was practicing simulated urban high-rise rooftop landings by at an off-site pad on top of a small mountain near the Los Angeles Zoo in the hills above Hollywood. On short final approach, the engine lost power and the helicopter impacted convert|4|in|mm short of the pad. The Helicopter rolled down the mountain side convert|162|ft|m, exploding in a ball of fire. Officer Lindenberg was killed and another officer was seriously injured. Officer Lindenberg had been with the agency for seven years and was survived by his wife and seven-month old daughter. Officer Lindenberg was an experienced pilot with 3575 hours of total flight time and 426 in type. He was an instrument rated pilot. [ [http://www.odmp.org/officer/8144-police-officer-jeffrey-b.-lindenberg Police Officer Jeffrey B. Lindenberg, Los Angeles Police Department ] ] [ [http://www.ntsb.gov/ntsb/brief.asp?ev_id=52591&key=0 LAX76AL084 ] ]

On May 29, 1974 Commander Paul J. Gillen was killed when his helicopter crashed. [ [http://www.odmp.org/officer/5453-commander-paul-j.-gillen Commander Paul J. Gillen, Los Angeles Police Department ] ]

On August 30, 1966 Policemen Larry Amberg and Alex N. Ilnicki, who was the pilot in command at the time, were killed when their Bell 47G-4 helicopter (U.S. registration N1162W) crashed into another Bell 47G-4 (U.S. registration N1157W). Policeman Ilnicki had about 401 hours of total flight time and 236 hours in type at the time of the crash. [ [http://www.ntsb.gov/ntsb/brief.asp?ev_id=23032&key=0 LAX67A0025 ] ] [ [http://www.odmp.org/officer/6920-policeman-alex-n.-ilnicki Policeman Alex N. Ilnicki, Los Angeles Police Department ] ] [ [http://www.odmp.org/officer/1181-policeman-larry-amberg Policeman Larry Amberg, Los Angeles Police Department ] ]

On November 30, 1964 Sergeant Norman D. Piepenbrink was killed in a helicopter accident. [ [http://www.odmp.org/officer/10670-sergeant-norman-d.-piepenbrink Sergeant Norman D. Piepenbrink, Los Angeles Police Department ] ]


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