Airborne Law Enforcement

Always busy: Pasadena PD Air Ops

Pasadena, California, is understood internationally for its Rose Bowl stadium and televised New Yr’s parade. Additionally it is recognized for its engaging houses and properties. The town is nestled towards the San Gabriel mountain vary, adding magnificence to an already lovely city.

Acquired in 2010, the MD 500E is appreciated by flight crews for its maneuverability and velocity. Skip Robinson Photograph

However, Pasadena has its justifiable share of big-city regulation enforcement issues, as it is adjacent to other cities together with Los Angeles, Glendale, Burbank and Arcadia. Pasadena Police Air Operations helps its own police department and different local regulation enforcement businesses hold a rein on these issues by offering efficient and responsive airborne service for the general public.

Pasadena Air Ops is among the oldest airborne regulation enforcement packages in america. The part has a devoted four-acre heliport instantly northwest of the town, nestled in between the Rose Bowl and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The unit consists of a lieutenant who’s a professional pilot, two sergeants/tactical flight officers (TFOs), a corporal/chief pilot, and three line pilots. There are three assigned TFOs as properly. Pasadena’s program additionally supports the Los Angeles Interagency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Taskforce (L.A. IMPACT) with a dedicated Pasadena pilot and TFO.

Fifty years of service

The Air Operations part was began in 1969 after metropolis officials saw an increase in local crime charges. Pasadena PD seemed at the very successful helicopter packages of the L.A. Police Division and L.A. County Sheriff’s Department to see how they helped help floor officers by giving them better situational awareness and more tactical options. Pasadena then began taking a look at helicopter varieties, focusing in on the newly designed piston-engine Enstrom F-28A.

Pasadena removes the OH-58’s left door window through the hotter months of the yr. Skip Robinson Photograph

By 1970, patrol crews have been flying patrols a number of days every week. The F-28A labored nicely as it was cheap to fly but in addition clean and comparatively rugged for patrol flights. Inside a comparatively brief time period, airborne regulation enforcement had made a distinction; crime charges have been down and criminals have been on the run. As the F-28A aged and ultimately wanted alternative, Pasadena continued on with the Enstrom custom by procuring the F-28C and later the turbocharged F-28F.

The Enstroms have been good helicopters and through the years have been upgraded with better avionics, radios, and infrared cameras. The primary turbine aircraft arrived within the form of a Bell 206B JetRanger III, which continues to be in service as we speak. By the late 1990s, the U.S. Military was retiring and making out there Bell OH-58A/A+ and C model helicopters to regulation enforcement businesses. Pasadena put in a request and procured multiple OH-58A+ airframes and spares, ultimately refurbishing two and putting them into patrol service. These airframes have been updated with civilian radios, avionics, infrared cameras, and new paint schemes. They served Pasadena properly for over a decade before being broken past repair in a ground accident in 2012 (see sidebar, p.54).

Pasadena favored the OH-58 airframe, and so was capable of refurbish and equip three extra surplus helicopters and place them into service. As Lt Mike Ingram explained, “We know the Bell OH-58A has years of life left in it and has proven to us to do what we need on a daily basis.”

The unit works intently together and conducts regular training to stay proficient in its many missions. Skip Robinson Photograph

That stated, in 2009 Pasadena did purchase a brand new MD 500E as part of a fleet alternative plan. Unfortunately, the financial points at the moment put the fleet alternative plan on maintain. Immediately, now that the Enstrom fleet has been absolutely retired, Pasadena operates three Bell OH-58A+, one Bell 206B JetRanger, and one MD 500E, all similarly mission-equipped.

The OH-58A+ and MD 500E have the Spectrolab SX-16 searchlight, whereas the JetRanger makes use of the smaller SX-5. Other gear consists of BMS downlink gear in four.9 GHz frequency, FLIR 8500 digital camera methods, Technisonic TDFM-7000 radios, Lo-Jack stolen car recovery techniques, gyro-stabilized binoculars, Churchill ARS mapping techniques, Aviation Specialties Unlimited night time vision cockpit modifications and gear,  and Van Horn Aviation tail rotor blades on the OH-58As and JetRanger.

In line with Ingram, “We have had great luck with Bell helicopters and specifically the OH-58As, and we see being able to fly them for another six to eight years before the parts supply [diminishes] and cost of operation rises to the point of having to look at a replacement. By then other helicopters should be available for consideration.”

Night time flights are routine for Pasadena Air Ops. The unit has NVGs, however due to the brilliant lights in the metropolis, makes use of these principally for dark mountain searches. Skip Robinson Photograph

He continued, “For as long as I’ve been right here we have now tried to be as protected but fiscally responsible as attainable. The Enstroms have been flown as many years because the cost of operation was low, but offered what we would have liked. Once we went to generators, the JetRanger labored nicely in comparison with many bigger aircraft. The OH-58 procurement allowed us to keep bills low but fly a top quality aircraft. We keep the OH-58s as if they have been civilian aircraft and will never waver from our top quality standards.

“We’re proud to have helped change the FAA rules on [military] surplus aircraft as it relates to training and ratings. Because of our efforts, pilots training in surplus aircraft can count those hours toward their ratings and certifications,” Ingram added.

The aircraft are maintained in house by Pasadena Air Operations’ director of maintenance, Randy James, who has over 40 years of aviation experience, together with 31 years on the unit. He’s assisted by two different experienced technicians. James recalled, “We flew the Enstroms for over four decades, and from what I understand we had the highest-time F-28 series Enstroms by a good margin. They were good helicopters and we knew them inside and out. Since the Enstroms flew so many hours we needed to know how to keep them reliable and flying every day, and we were successful at doing it.”

Though just lately retired, the Enstrom 280 collection served as Pasadena’s main patrol plane for 4 many years. Skip Robinson Photograph

He continued, “As far as the OH-58As and JetRanger [are concerned],, they’re wonderful plane. Very reliable and straightforward to take care of, and by no means provide you with a problem we don’t already find out about. We’ve a big inventory of elements and Bell nonetheless helps the airframe, so maintaining them in the air is a non-issue. We began flying the OH-58 helicopters in 1998. Since then, we now have flown our fleet of OH-58 helicopters in extra of 28,000 hours. The MD 500E is an effective machine and comparatively straightforward to take care of.

James stated that his group performs all the scheduled maintenance on the plane in home, while contracting out engine overhauls and main airframe work to distributors who have the tooling to finish those tasks in a timely manner. “One of the most significant cost savings is having our Air Ops maintenance staff performing our own in-house component overhauls and repairs,” he famous. “Before placing the OH-58 helicopters in service, they went through a comprehensive in-house repair and rebuilding process, which consisted of disassembly of the complete aircraft. They were then inspected, repaired/overhauled and reassembled.”

The missions

With respect to general flight hours, Pasadena Air Ops is for probably the most half a patrol unit, with shifts seven days every week masking roughly 17 hours a day. It also trains for airborne use of pressure with its SWAT groups and is able to inserting officers onto the tops of buildings, and supporting Okay-9 groups.

Every year on Jan. 1, Pasadena Air Ops flies multiple missions for the Event of Roses Parade and Rose Bowl. Right here, a Bell OH-58A does an overflight of the Rose Bowl. Skip Robinson Photograph

Notable are the unit’s close relationships with native air models and outlying cities. Pasadena Air Ops has a partnership with 10 neighboring cities in the San Gabriel Valley referred to as FAST, for “Foothill Air Support Team.” This program started in 1996 with five cities that needed air help service. As we speak, the partnership extends east all the best way to Pomona and is among the largest regional cooperative packages on the West Coast, with a combined service area encompassing about 125 sq. miles and 750,000 individuals.

“The FAST program supplements our patrol efforts and on selected nights crews fly a separate aircraft to cover the partner cities,” stated Ingram. “Yearly, those flights account for roughly 500 hours of extra service. On the similar time Pasadena has its personal patrol helicopter; nevertheless, we’ve developed an impressive relationship with the Burbank/Glendale Air Help Unit. Collectively, by way of an off-the-cuff Tri-Metropolis settlement, Pasadena-Glendale-Burbank companion to cowl our cities. Cooperative flight schedules have been created to insure our plane are in the air in the course of the busier occasions of the day.

“We have been doing this for years and it works extremely well,” Ingram continued. “We will have at least one helicopter covering all three cities but if there is a need for another helicopter to launch we have the crews and flexibility to get another ship into the sky. It saves money from putting unnecessary time on aircraft and wearing out our crews.”

The unit commonly trains for airborne use of drive. Both flight crews and the SWAT group are involved. Skip Robinson Photograph

Another cooperative enterprise is L.A. IMPACT, a nationally acknowledged regional, multi-agency activity pressure liable for excessive degree narcotic interdiction. Pasadena took over the air help operations for L.A. IMPACT in 2005, however its involvement in providing aerial surveillance dates back to the mid-1980s. At present, the unit flies a particular mission Airbus AS350 B2 which is provided with an L3 Wescam MX-10 digital camera for high-altitude surveillance and a Spectrolab SX-16 Nightsun searchlight.

The L.A. IMPACT flight crew flies every day missions all through Southern California, supporting L.A. IMPACT teams in numerous surveillance operations. These missions target major drug trafficking organizations and often end in giant seizures of narcotics, money, or weapons. Based mostly in L.A. County, the crew covers an area from the southern border north to the Central Valley.

Whereas Pasadena Air Ops stays busy sufficient with patrol work, additionally it is sometimes referred to as into the adjacent Angeles Nationwide Forest to search for lost hikers and other parties. “If we locate them, we generally help direct the crews in for hoist work or recovery,” Ingram explained. Right here, the unit especially benefits from its night time vision goggle (NVG) program, which has been in place since 2012.

The OH-58A+ has been a superb aircraft for Pasadena. It may possibly do the mission at an inexpensive value, could be very dependable, and is a cushty platform for its crew. Skip Robinson Photograph

“We use ANVIS 9 goggles and are happy to have them,” stated Pasadena Air Ops pilot Steve Thurston. “Since we are so close to the mountains, the goggles have been a game-changer for us. It can literally be black up there and previously we would have simply not ventured into those areas. Today, we can go there for a search or to support officers with confidence.”

Part of the group

Naturally, the unit can also be busy in the course of the Pasadena New Yr’s Rose Parade and Rose Bowl football recreation on the same day. It supplies regular patrol protection, command and control, and visitors management flights all through the day, along with working with a variety of federal businesses on security and anti-terrorism help flights. “We won’t go into great detail, but rest assured the public is well protected with what goes on [during] this day,” stated Ingram. Though Jan. 1 is a very huge day, Pasadena supplies comparable coverage throughout the year throughout giant live shows, worldwide soccer video games, UCLA football and other sporting events at the Rose Bowl.

Because Pasadena Air Ops likes to stay related with as many air help businesses as potential, for the last 30 years the unit has hosted a yearly coaching event that brings air models from throughout Southern California together to debate present subjects and safety-related gadgets. “Because of our great relationship with the Rose Bowl, we’ve been using it for the fly-in exercise for a number of years,” Pasadena Air Ops Sgt Brad Might informed Vertical 911. “This is an extremely good way for flight crews to meet and build relationships. These types of events are critical in forming relationships that help us for years to come. When you have a question or need assistance, knowing each other makes all the difference.”

Director of upkeep Randy James stands subsequent to the unit’s Bell 206 JetRanger, an airframe he’s quite fond of. Skip Robinson Photograph

In addition to police work, Air Ops is lively in group outreach efforts. An excellent example is the Christmas toy drive, originally created by another company however adopted by Air Ops. This can be a regional effort, the place section officers increase funds from inside the businesses served by the part to purchase toys. These toys are then delivered by Santa Claus to the rooftop heliport of Pasadena’s Huntington Memorial Hospital and distributed to youngsters in the pediatric ward. In addition, the unit helps an area domestic violence middle and supplies toys and holiday cheer for the youngsters there. Different efforts involving the group embrace neighborhood Nationwide Night time Out activities; conducting excursions for Boy and Woman Scouts, faculty and different teams; and proactively selling police helicopter help activity among the many individuals the unit serves.

Pasadena Police Air Help’s future is secure: it has an outstanding facility, an incredible working relationship with virtually each different air help and hearth air help agency in California, extraordinarily properly maintained plane, and nicely educated flight crews which have robust help from the command employees. Although it’d be capable of afford bigger and extra capable plane, it has found that its fleet, for now, does the mission properly. When the time for fleet alternative comes in the future, the unit will do its greatest to provide its residents probably the most worth for the dollars spent.

Pasadena Air Ops has a large dedicated facility with a perfect format. Skip Robinson Photograph


Lessons Discovered

On Nov. 17, 2012, two Pasadena Police Bell OH-58 helicopters collided with each other whereas working at their heliport. The ground-based collision occurred as one plane was landing and another was getting ready to depart for a mission. As the touchdown aircraft prepared to the touch down, the 2 helicopters’ important rotor blades collided, ensuing within the complete loss of each plane. Thankfully, neither plane rolled over or caught hearth, and the injuries sustained by the crewmembers have been minimal. In the long run, the National Transportation Security Board described the collision as controlled flight into terrain because of human error.

The circumstances main as much as the collision have been rigorously studied by Air Operations, and classes have been discovered. One instant discovering was that the plane spacing in between the 2 landing pads had not been elevated when the unit transitioned to the larger aircraft. The second major discovering was the need for thorough evaluate of landing and communication procedures with crewmembers. Following the collision, the heliport landing area was redesigned with increased “stand-off distances,” the removing of ground obstructions, and improved lighting and markings. A renewed sense of focusing on the “little things” was strongly embraced by all.

Lt Mike Ingram, who was standing next to the departing plane on the time of the accident and injured by flying debris, advised Vertical 911, “Although there were a number of issues that took place that day, it comes down to one thing: leadership. It’s critical, and identifying issues before they happen is paramount to running a successful operation. The ‘top down’ approach doesn’t work because everyone needs to be involved. Fight complacency and don’t judge incidents by the end result because we miss opportunities to get better. It’s humbling to say, but I missed opportunities on Nov. 17. The silver lining is I could not be more proud of my team for the way they responded and came together. We learned a lot and I can honestly say we are better because of it.”

Lately acquired for particular missions, the Airbus AS350 B2 is proving its value throughout long surveillance flights. Skip Robinson Photograph