How to Become a Police Helicopter Pilot

Read this how-to guide for sworn officers in larger departments who dream of one day joining their agency's airborne unit.

Paul Clinton Web Headshot

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

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