FREE e-Newsletter
Important News - Hot Topics
Get them Now!

How to Become a Police Helicopter Pilot

View the process as long-term, and know you'll need more than just aviation experience.

December 30, 2009  |  by

Image via San Diego County Sheriff's Department.

At POLICE Magazine, we don't feel the need to reinvent what's already working. When we see a good resource out there, we would rather identify it as such, and point you to it.

We've found such a resource over at, a blog hosted by Darryl Kimball, a San Diego County Sheriff Department pilot with his agency's airborne unit.

Deputy Kimball has posted an article that gives officers some excellent suggestions if they have set a goal to join the airborne ranks.

Of course, if your agency uses civilian pilots or is looking to hire trained pilots from the private sector and put them through the police academy, you may be waiting longer for the transfer.

But the deputy provides a good guide for in-house Observers/Tactical Flight Officers (TFOs) or other officers. His best advice is to view the process as a long-term one. He knows this, because he lived it. He spent four years working corrections and 16 patrolling in a black-and-white.

Here's an excerpt:

On most agencies, you are going to have to compete for these positions. In other words, there is a selection process where points are given for seniority, experience on the department, etc., and then ultimately [there's] an interview. Certainly some weight will be given to aviation experience, and some aviation experience may be mandatory on some agencies (such as a private fixed-wing license).

But my point is that most agencies learned long ago to look at much more than your aviation experience or ratings. Your personality, your ability to make decisions under pressure, your reputation as a quality employee, your work ethic [are] all very important. I can tell you right now that no one cares what kind of a pilot rating you have or how many helicopter flight hours you have, if you can't get along with your fellow officers.

Read the full post at

Be the first to comment on this story

POLICE Magazine does not tolerate comments that include profanity, personal attacks or antisocial behavior (such as "spamming" or "trolling"). This and other inappropriate content or material will be removed. We reserve the right to block any user who violates this, including removing all content posted by that user.

Other Recent Blog Posts

My Memories of R. Lee Ermey
It was at the SOG booth in 2010 that I had the opportunity to interview "Gunny." We talked...
Proposed California Use-of-Force Bill Won't Make Anyone Safer
If a police officer’s use of deadly force is deemed to be unnecessary to them and to...

Police Magazine