Air Beat Magazine: March - April 2006


March - April 2006

Setting Standards:
What Is Your "Go, No Go" Policy?

Classroom Tactics

The Flying Foundation:
Ground Crews Support Law Enforcement Aviation

Mission Over...
Now the Work Starts

Before Pulling Pitch:
The Importance of Ground Training for Flight Crews

The Stars Behind the Badge


Setting Standards:
What Is Your "Go, No Go" Policy?

By Keith Johnson
APSA Safety Program Manager

Loss of visual reference is often followed by spatial disorientation and loss of control of the aircraft. It has claimed the lives of many pilots, tactical flight officers and passengers. Research shows that a pilot who becomes spatially disoriented has at least a 90 percent chance of having a fatal accident – a very sobering thought.

The Bloomberg School of Public Health Department of Health Policy and Management Center recently concluded a study on the topic of EMS helicopter accidents, and I believe the results have similar application to law enforcement operations. According to professor Susan P. Baker, MPS, "Our study found that darkness triples the risk of fatalities when EMS helicopters crash and that bad weather increases the risk eight-fold."

The study’s authors examined National Transportation Safety Board records for EMS helicopters between January 1, 1983, and April 30, 2005. During the 22-year study period, 184 occupants died in 182 EMS helicopter accidents. Seventy-seven percent occurred in weather conditions when pilots were required to fly primarily by reference to instruments. In darkness, 56 percent of the accidents were fatal, compared to 24 percent of the accidents not in darkness. And, the death rate for EMS flight crewmembers is 20 times the rate for all U.S. workers.

Since much of the flight time in law enforcement aviation is at night, low-level and often during times of low ceiling and visibility, we should all pause and consider our organization’s weather standards.

Weather related accidents have high "severity" and "probability" risk factors, and account for the highest fatality rate of any other causal factors. This is a standard that requires careful consideration by management. I highly recommend that every organization examine their minimum weather standards. The following should be minimums: 800 feet and two miles visibility for day operations over flat terrain, and 1,000 feet and three miles over mountainous terrain. For night operations over flat terrain, 1,000 feet and three miles and mountainous terrains of 1,300 feet and five miles.

I realize many of us have flown in worse weather without a mishap. The question we must ask ourselves, "Should we have flown in those conditions"? We must always manage risk and follow the premise that the risk we are taking is justified for what we expect to accomplish. If not, abort the mission.

Other factors that we must consider include the following factors:
Aircrew: Pilot and TFO experience should be a key factor in determining whether to increase the minimum. Only pilots with considerable experience should be permitted to fly in minimum conditions. Assigning less experienced pilots and TFO together significantly increases risk, and should be avoided. And, combining inexperienced pilots and TFOs increases risk exponentially, and requires a new risk assessment.

Aircraft: Assessing aircraft issues is always a consideration. Aircraft certified for Instrument Flight, and having autopilot or stabilization capability have value when operating in low ceiling and visibility conditions. However, more complex aircraft require more pilot experience, and should generally not be assigned to inexperienced pilots.

Mission: The complexity of the mission must be carefully calculated when assessing risk. No two crewmembers have the same knowledge, skill judgment and experience.

Other Issues: Consider air crew fatigue, projected length of time and distance of the mission, wind, turbulence and flight over water. Flight over water, especially at night, poses high risk of spatial disorientation, and should be conducted with pilots that are Instrument rated.

All pilots should receive IIMC training a minimum of once each year. More frequent training is recommended due to the frequent low ceiling and visibility conditions that exist during winter months.

No pilot should act as pilot in command (PIC) unless the pilot has received night transition training. There should be a written endorsement by the chief or instructor pilot stating that the pilot has complied with unit night currency requirements as defined in FAR Part 61.

Changes in environmental conditions can occur multiple times on a given flight. External conditions such as clouds, fog, haze, smoke, rain and overcast sky at night, reduce our ability to avoid things like mountains, surface obstructions, and even flat terrain. They also make it more difficult to navigate, and increase the risk of inadvertent entry into the clouds. We must acknowledge that no pilot intentionally enters the clouds, and therefore, we are all subject to this often-fatal mistake.

When inadvertent IMC does occur, the attitude of the aircraft must be determined by artificial means from reference to the flight instruments. When this occurs, a pilot is particularly vulnerable to disorientation. The degree of disorientation may vary considerably with individual pilots.

In the event of experiencing inadvertent IMC, several things should be considered including steps to prevent/overcome spatial disorientation:

  • Have and follow your inadvertent IMC plan.

  • Fly on and believe the flight instruments.

  • Utilize a sound instrument scan.

  • Fly straight and level if possible until you are oriented.

  • Delay control inputs until you can visually confirm your sensations with flight instruments.

  • Avoid unnecessary and rapid head movements when flying on the instruments.

  • Avoid fixation that can cause disorientation.

  • Manage and coordinate workload with other crewmembers.

During VFR flight, we rely heavily on visual clues outside the cockpit. The transition from visual to instrument flight cannot be accomplished immediately. Not even by highly experienced pilots, even when they know the transition is about to occur. Studies have shown that it takes approximately 30 seconds to successfully make the transition. The key to successfully making this transition is training and having a plan.

Experts tell us that subsequent to entering the clouds, initial procedures should include flying straight and level, then making 180-degree turns, climbing or descending to return to VMC. These are all well and good, but sometimes the flying environment demands different procedures. What would you do when flying through a narrow mountain pass when inadvertently entering a cloud layer? You may not be able to continue flying straight and level due to proximity to nearby terrain.

Most in law enforcement operate with crews of two. Your partner can be a valuable asset in making the transition from visual to instrument flight. This can include monitoring instruments and giving the pilot essential information, and communicating with ATC and other nearby aircraft. Effective response requires training for both pilot and tactical flight officer. I frequently hear, "It’s too expensive to train." Try having a fatal accident.

There are multiple environments crews must be prepared to operate in, including marine, dessert, mountains, agricultural and urban areas with high-rise buildings and other surface obstacles. Pilots and crewmembers, in order to increase the likelihood of responding appropriately, need to have a plan for the different environmental conditions in which they operate.

Your organization should have a "go, no go" weather minimum policy. You should have a personal "go, no go" weather minimum policy that may be more conservative due to lack of experience, skill or severe environmental conditions. Ask yourself, "Is your job worth your life?

Editor’s Note: For a copy of the EMS Accident Study, go to the APSA website, "EMS Accident Study."

Classroom Tactics

By Cpl. Eric Weidner
TFO Ontario (CA) PD Air Support Unit

Each day on the job provides new learning experiences, and this is certainly true in the TFO field. Every day and every call shows us that no one knows it all. The ability to be critical of yourself and your performance isn’t something that comes easily, but it is necessary if you are going to continue improving.

Tactical Flight Officer’s (TFO) know that training classes in this field are few and far between. So, when my sergeant approached me about attending the first TFO class hosted by the Los Angeles Police Department’s Air Support Division (LAPD ASD), I enthusiastically agreed. I have been a TFO for the past three years in a medium-sized, mostly urban city in Southern California – enough time by most standards to have refined my skills as a TFO.

The Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) certified class was held in October at the Hooper Memorial Heliport, home of the LAPD ASD. The aviation division recently converted part of their hangar facility into a state-of-the-art training center – the Saperstein Training Center, a comfortable place to hold training seminars. Twenty-eight police officers and deputies in aviation units from Tucson, Arizona to Placer County, California attended the class.

Some of the topics covered during the four days of classes were crew resource management, pursuit tactics, firefighting, SWAT procedures, K-9 applications, surveillance and FLIR applications. All of the lectures presented were interesting and informative, and Officer/Pilot Jack Schonely presented one particularly useful lecture on suspect evasion tactics. The training experience was enhanced with ride-a-longs in LAPD aircraft during actual law enforcement tactical operations.

The opportunity to receive TFO training in a formal training environment and to exchange ideas on tactics and procedures with other professionals in the field is invaluable. A face-to-face classroom-training environment is a great way to put the practical experience that we receive every day into a new and correct perspective.

LAPD started their helicopter unit in 1956, and it has continued to grow in size and mission capability since its inception. The number of flight hours and calls handled on a daily basis by this air unit is quite impressive. The Air Support Division has two, and sometimes three, helicopters flying in support of patrol over the City of Los Angeles most hours of the day and night. Being able to observe the inner workings of one of the largest police aviation units in the world was an added bonus of attending this TFO class.

So what is a TFO? And what makes a good one? What skills are required to be an effective TFO? One answer is that a TFO is an officer who has sound patrol experience, is skilled and knowledgeable in all of the communications and sensor systems of the aircraft and can utilize this equipment as required in any tactical situation. Necessary traits of a TFO are multi-tasking capabilities, complete situational awareness, cockpit resource management (CRM) in tune with the aircraft pilot, and outstanding communication skills. The LAPD’s TFO class stressed these skills and did a great job of illustrating how to apply them for the successful outcome of tactical situations.

Those of us who are TFOs happily accept that relatively new title over the original designation of "observer." The fact is the days of a cop simply riding along in the aircraft with a pilot and conducting some "garden variety" visual law enforcement observations are over. This is not meant to take anything away from those who came before us; their experiences are invaluable. But today’s TFO is handling the tactical part of the unit’s operations with an arsenal of technical equipment and systems that were not available five or ten years ago. When faced with the challenges of using this new technology, it makes sense that the LAPD ASD would develop a formalized training seminar to address the role of today’s TFO.

When it’s all said and done, however, it doesn’t matter how big or small your air unit is. The most important thing is getting the right information, correctly acting on it in a timely manner, and doing the best job possible.

The Flying Foundation:
Ground Crews Support Law Enforcement Aviation

By Erik P. Feldmanis

Who exactly are ground crews, and what is it that they do?

For the most part, ground crews are the individuals that frankly, we couldn’t operate without. They’re simply the devoted, dedicated and, many times, unnoticed professionals that allow police department’s aircraft and their crews to operate.

Ground handling and ground servicing is a relatively complex operation. Unlike pulling your car out of the garage or, better yet, pulling the lawnmower out of the shed and gassing it up, aircraft require more attention. They’re bigger, heavier, more dangerous and, of course, more expensive. As with any high-tech operation, regardless of what that might be, one must remember that hidden behind that operation lays a multitude of support foundations. These foundations are the means by which that operation can exist or perform. These multitude, or layers of support, and the basis on which they are performed require a certain level of expertise. That level of expertise is dependent upon the level of complexity of that specific foundation.

In terms of aviation operations, one important, yet sometimes overlooked, support foundation is that of ground handling. And it's important for all of us to take notice of the folks (sometimes not sworn police officers) who make it happen behind the scenes and spend some time looking at what it is that they do.

The responsibilities of ground crews can vary from menial tasks such as washing and cleaning the aircraft (not to imply that washing and cleaning an aircraft is unnecessary or unwarranted) to complex tasks such as complete engine and transmission overhauls---and everything in between. The amount of ground support performed by a particular unit is, of course, dependent on factors such as out-source availability and budget constraints. Regardless of the level of groundhandling and servicing, mistakes can be costly.

Just a couple of years ago, the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) backed by numerous aviation insurance agencies, developed what they call a "Ground Incident Reporting Program." This reporting program appeared to have been prompted by the belief that ground handling incidents were the fastest growing area of aviation-related claims. One estimate then believed that ground handling claims accounted for somewhere close to $100 million a year. This is an astonishing statistic, and one not to be taken lightly.

The level of complexity of ground handling tasks isn’t the issue. What is, or at least can be, an issue is that the personnel relied upon to fulfill these requirements need to be qualified in order to perform those tasks.

What is qualified? Qualified is, or at least should be, a measurable level of knowledge and expertise. Not just theoretical knowledge, but hands-on practical knowledge as well. It is more than just an assignment or additional duty---it’s a responsibility. Does qualification include training? Of course it does. Just as flight crews train, so do ground crew personnel---or at least they should.

Training is a formalized means by which to provide theoretical and practical hands-on experience. It aids in ensuring competence, efficiency and, most importantly, at least in the operation of aircraft, safety. Damage to property and injury to personnel (including flight crews, ground crews and the public) are all potential hazards, especially when aircraft are involved. But we need to take this one step further. What is that training derived from? Is it based on an industry standard? Is it tailored to the operation’s specifics, such as location, equipment, personnel, etc.? Yes and yes.

To get an idea of what an aviation law enforcement agency may do in terms of ground handling operations, I recently had the distinct privilege to spend some time with just a few of the Columbus, Ohio Police Department’s elite ground crews to see first-hand how they operate.

The Columbus Police employs 22 pilots to operate six MD500E helicopters. Operating 16 hours a day, seven days a week, the flight crew themselves take care of the day-to-day ground handling operations. Aircraft maintenance is out-sourced.

Lt. Mike Elkins, the division’s commander, schedules crews on an overlapping timetable. This aids not only in the availability of aircraft, but also in the coordination of ground support. Sgt. Edward Daniher, the first shift supervisor, explained the orientation and training process that they use. "Once a new crewmember is assigned, they first go through a basic facility orientation. This orientation includes the building and hangar layout, facility equipment and aircraft support equipment. Following the orientation, specific task training begins. A standardized ‘task sign-off’ sheet is utilized to document and organize the training."

Policies and procedures pertaining to ground support operations are covered in the department’s standard operating procedures. The training requirements for each of the listed tasks are also in that SOP. Rather than just assign a new crewmember the task of reading the material presented within the SOPs, each individual sits down with a supervisor and the information is covered one-on-one. This ensures content understanding.

From there, operational experience is gained in all facets of ground handling: proper operation of the helicopter transport carts, ground handling wheels, A.P.U. charging, connect-disconnect procedures, refueling (both cold and hot), tug operations and proper aircraft cleaning procedures. With regard to aircraft cleaning, each flying aircraft is cleaned not once, but twice daily. The flight crews are also responsible for snow plowing, as well as grass maintenance. The crewmembers watch, listen, and learn. As time progresses, they begin their hands-on experience under the watchful eye of a supervisor.

The unit’s standards are ever-evolving, whereas policies and procedures are occasionally modified in order to improve a policy or procedure. These new changes are inserted into the document in bold and underlined text, making the new changes easily identifiable. A reading file is maintained to provide informational updates.

The Columbus Police Department's air division has never had a single injury or loss of aircraft -- in the air or on the ground. With an operation in existence since 1972 and an annual flight operation logging in excess of 5,200 hours, this is a remarkable achievement. But, this didn’t happen by accident. It happened because of the devotion, dedication to safety and professionalism demonstrated by the crewmembers that make up the Columbus Police Department’s Aviation Section.

Mission Over...
Now the Work Starts

By Shea Gibbs

The Fixed Base Operation at your airfield couldn’t operate without several linemen running around the ramp at all times. To keep private aircraft in the air, FBOs employ full-time ground handling personnel to position, receive, clean and fuel the birds. Flight crews are reserved for, well, flight.

In most cases, law enforcement pilots and tactical flight officers aren’t so lucky. Many crewmembers find that their job doesn’t end even when the bad guys are behind bars. After coming in from a mission, landing the aircraft and shutting down, they become the linemen. Somebody’s got to put the thing to bed. And somebody’s got to do it right.

"The majority of the time it’s the pilot and the TFO," says Sgt. Dave Hansen of the Albuquerque Police Department. "Late at night they’re the only ones here, and they have to push it, physically push the helicopter [into the hangar]."

Sure, most units are blessed with tugs, which take out the physical part of moving the airplanes and helicopters, but such double duty is more the rule than the exception. It’s not just the smaller units that find that budgetary constraints keep them from employing ground personnel; it’s the standard sized units as well.

The Hillsborough County (FL) Sheriff’s Office currently employs nine full-time pilots to operate eight different aircraft, six rotary and two fixed-wings. But even with two mechanics also on staff, sworn officers often find themselves scraping debris from the airframes.

"It’s a team effort to clean up—mechanics, pilots," says Master Sgt. Mark Yost. "After they come in, you tend to get some bugs on the front end leading edges. That’s all cleaned off after every mission."

While it wouldn’t alleviate any of the duties performed by pilots and TFOs, Yost believes that things on the ground would run more smoothly if the department were to standardize their aircraft. Currently operating six helicopters in three different models—two American Eurocopter AS350s, two B2 A-Stars and two Bell OH-58s—he would like to see the unit consolidate the fleet.

"Our future plans are to try to go with four A-Stars," he says.

For the Maryland State Police, with a payroll accommodating about 130 individuals, two-man teams of a pilot and a paramedic (70 percent of their calls involve medical transport) handle everything related to their aircraft during their 12 hour shift. This group of 100 personnel (50 pilots and 50 medics) handles the responsibilities at eight different bases across the state.

The MSP operates 12 Dauphin helicopters, a King Air and a Cessna 210, so all of their aircraft can be maneuvered without the use of a dolly or by attaching wheels to helicopter skids. But their cleaning regime for each machine is rigorous. For each, the exterior is washed once a day and waxed once every two weeks. The flight crews also work to clean the blades and the interior every week. And on top of the set schedule, says First Sgt. William Kerr, the airplanes are cleaned on an as needed basis.

The two-man crews also fuel their aircraft on-site, and this is the only area where Kerr believes the MSP ground handling operation could be improved.

"In some of our areas, the fuel source is a good distance from the actual hangar," he says. "It would be nice to move the fuel sources in closer proximity to the planes. They’re not always, but in some cases, a bit of a distance, which increases our response time."

Most operations have simply come to accept that budgetary constraints will never allow them to bring in full-time line staff. So they make the best of things, dividing duties up fairly, usually by tasking operating pilots with preparing aircraft prior to missions and taking care of them after the job has been done.

"Everyone’s got their own little niche," offers Arkansas State Police Sgt. Jim Moore. "One person handles statistics. Another is responsible for traffic. And someone else handles equipment other than on the aircraft."

Officers at the Hillsborough Police Department, like those at the MSP, are called upon to operate heavy machinery on the ground as well as in the air. With a fuel farm on site, it’s up to everyone to keep the aircraft fueled and ready to go.

Some departments, though, have found ways around putting too much extra burden on their pilots. One of the most common ways of doing so is to outsource some of the line tasks – usually fueling – to local FBOs. Albuquerque relies on the services of Bode Aero for their fueling needs, which Hansen says has worked out well.
"We call them up and they can bring the truck over and they’ll fill us up," he says. "They can also hot fuel the helicopter." When it comes to hot fuels, naturally, Albuquerque pilots and TFOs are involved in the process, the pilot remaining in the cockpit while the TFO exits the aircraft to provide another set of eyes on the tarmac.

And there are great benefits to having a hand in the minor upkeep of your law enforcement aircraft. No one cares more about a machine that will be taken into hostile situations than the person who will be taking it there. Ground handling, in this case, becomes like an extended pre- and post-flight inspection for pilots and TFOs, and the equipment is looked after with the utmost care.

"We had some Eurocopter guys out here," says Hansen. "And we’ve had our EC120 going on five years, but they thought it was a lot newer."

For startup units, ground operations sometimes have to be improvised. The Cleveland Division of Police two years ago saw its aviation department completely eliminated from service, and it has recently been reinstated. Before being shut down, the CDP relied heavily on an FBO for their ground handling, but this time, they’re having to do it all themselves. And it’s no easy do-it-yourself project.

"It’ll take time to get the operation up and running," says Lt. Alan Chonko. "The old mayor devastated our program." This means that budget concerns are of utmost importance. "Money’s tight because of the way we’re restarting," Chonko says.

So the unit is getting by on the seat of their jumpsuits. They currently have five pilots operating two helicopters and one fixed-wing aircraft, but Chonko says that they will have a full force of ten in the near future. They’ve relied heavily on the 1033 military surplus program to procure all of the necessary equipment to maneuver on the ground. They are currently refurbishing a fuel truck to convert it to Jet-A fuel, but some of the equipment they received may be beyond refurbishing.

"We also got a couple tugs," says Chonko. "They’re not so great, but we can use a pickup truck if we need to. You put a receiver hitch on the front end of the truck."

The Kansas Highway Patrol is in a similar situation. They have the 10 pilot force that Cleveland is shooting for and a fleet of eight aircraft, split down the middle between rotary and fixed-wing. They do use a neighboring FBO for fueling (which they supervise), but the rest of the nitty-gritty line tasks fall on the pilots’ shoulders.

"It’d be good if we had [extra personnel], but we’re kind of a fledgling unit," says Captain Anthony Prideaux. "We’re getting started back up again. If it’s got to be done, we’re going to do it. We don’t have the manpower or budget to bring anyone else on."

According to First Lt. Bern Reidsma, the Michigan State Police run things a bit differently. They rely on their two full-time mechanics to perform most of the aircraft maneuvering on the ground, as well as for fueling and cleaning, though pilots are responsible for maintaining all of the non-aircraft equipment.

For moving helicopters (of which they have two, along with a single engine airplane and a twin), Reidsma finds it beneficial to have both dollies and wheels to slip under the skids. The dollies, he says, are most efficient, but the attachable wheels are far more portable, and they often bring them along for convenience when they’ll be landing at a remote location.

When asked what could be improved in ground handling for his department, Reidsma offers a common suggestion. "Oh yeah, more budget would definitely help."

Regardless of what kind of extra work officers might be required to do on the ground due to budget constraints, aerial enforcers are the type to see the benefits of giving increased attention to their aircraft, rather than complain.
"There’s a number of things that would make things easier—new power equipment to move the aircraft, a new hangar would be a good thing for the storage of our aircraft," says Hansen. "There are a lot of better things out there, but we make do with what we have."

In the end, it’s more about getting the job done right than getting the latest equipment for its luxury. Such is the case for the start-up unit in Cleveland, and for their military surplus tugs.

"The important thing is we got operating, not that we have a shiny new tug," says Chonko. 

Before Pulling Pitch:
The Importance of Ground 
Training for Flight Crews

By Dick Gilson
AvStar Media, LLC

The development and maintenance of a comprehensive training program requires that the unit’s training officer look at all of the resources available to ensure that there are no essential elements left out. Just as the FAA requires that each Part 135 operator have a training manual, each department should also have a formal statement of their training requirements and how they are going to be met. Whether you fly Part 135 or Part 91, a formal approach to establishing the training curriculum is necessary to eliminate any training deficiencies. We will deal primarily with the ground portion of the training requirements, although you can apply the same procedures for the flight portion.

Take The First Step
Mission Statement: The first and one of the most important steps to complete is to develop a mission statement. This involves identifying the services that you provide. For example, "We provide aircraft in support of law enforcement to include day/night, VFR/IFR, NVGs, external load, repelling, fire fighting, over water and mountainous terrain, and medevac."

When describing these services, remember that whatever you offer, you must budget for the equipment AND the training. It is obvious that you will not be able to fly NVGs without such things as goggles and the proper cockpit configuration, but the training to efficiently operate this equipment is just as important. Some equipment, such as NVGs, can be a liability rather than an asset if the operator is not properly trained. This holds true for all of the capabilities that you are offering your department.

Modified Task Analysis: You need to list your training objectives. In other words, what do my pilots need to know? There is no substitute for writing down the individual tasks that must be learned and practiced in order to maintain proficiency. As an example, you want to list the things a pilot needs to know if hovering over water, as there are unique concerns in the event of a water recovery.

It is a good idea to periodically "start from scratch" in analyzing the mission and therefore the tasks, especially if it has been some time since you have done so. New equipment or new aircraft can increase capabilities and "adding on" to your task listing can create a curriculum that can be disjointed and unmanageable. Just as in the flight training phase, where you list the maneuvers that the pilot must master, your ground training likewise should include the items of information that the pilot needs to learn.

How do I accomplish this training? 
Develop a Task Checklist: Many operators satisfy their requirements by a combination of in-house training and using the services of an outside vendor. For in-house training, the instruction should include the development of "lesson plans". These are often looked upon as a nuisance, but they are useful in ensuring that all of the required material is covered. They are living documents and should be reviewed and modified as necessary.

The outside vendor training, whether a factory program, visiting instructor, or computer based training, should be reviewed to see what portion of your specific training requirements they cover. Require that any vendor providing any portion of your training list specifically what they are going to cover. This is the only way you can check off the items that have been completed. The APSA does an excellent job of listing the objectives of their educational programs, whether at the annual conference or the regional safety seminars.

Training is Not a Variable Expense: In many cases, budget reductions cause training evolutions to be either cancelled or postponed. No such reductions are proposed for the purchase of fuel or for the conduct of maintenance. Training is not a variable expense and there is an expenditure below which, an operator should not go and continue to operate.

Similarly, there are essential training requirements that other police officers MUST complete such as weapons qualification or driving re-qualification, that would never be eliminated. Specialized units such as SWAT have their own unique requirements that must be completed or the member is not qualified. Your aviation operation should have similar essential requirements to ensure qualification.

We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know: Unfortunately we do not know what we have forgotten. There is no alarm that sounds, indicating the information that we no longer can recall, such as an emergency procedure, a limitation, or a regulation. How do we ensure that we have retained all the necessary information? More than likely, your recurrent training can be as much of a "validation" process as a new learning experience. It will confirm that we knew what we thought we knew and re-teach those items that might have escaped us.

I Fly a Lot, So We Don’t Have to Train: Flight hours do not necessarily equate to experience or competency. If a flight is uneventful, we use just a small portion of what we need to know to be "qualified" to conduct the flight. How do we ensure that the "other" information is learned and retained? It requires a regimented recurrent training solution. Even if the department has highly qualified pilots, they may not necessarily be highly qualified instructors.

Evaluate Your Training Program: Look at it in a different light, as if you just had an accident or incident and you are justifying your training. If, in evaluating our training program, we used the criteria that someone was looking over our shoulders to see what deficiencies might have caused an accident or incident, we would probably arrive at different conclusions relative to our training program’s adequacy. We would not rationalize the elimination or postponement of training evolutions and we would become more aggressive in the advocacy of these programs.

No one ever wants to think about facing their boss, the FAA or the insurance company, trying to justify their training decisions, so it is far better to use that method before hand, as it may result in never having to be in that uncomfortable position. Most importantly, it is more likely that everyone goes home safely.

Evaluation and Record-keeping: The term "evaluate" may be more palatable to some, but it is basically a method of "testing" the pilots. We don’t take someone’s word that they can successfully autorotate a helicopter and we need to test for the information associated with ground school. How do I determine that the pilot has retained the information?

Don’t wait until an emergency occurs to find out that the pilot has forgotten an important procedure. Periodic evaluations, whether written or oral, are necessary to know how effective your training program is. Record keeping is an essential part of the training system. Remember that if you don’t have records that the training was accomplished, to an outsider, it wasn’t.

Get Management Support: How do we get management to support our training plan? One way is to emphasize the importance of your training. Ask your superior about their impression of what constitutes a safe operation. What are their expectations of the operation from a safety perspective? What training do they expect to be conducted?

In the absence of specifics, this is the opportunity to provide a copy of your curriculum and if you have done a good task analysis, you can easily justify every item on your list. Keep in mind that the initial premise is that the operation and the training is fine, especially if there has not been an accident of incident. The key is to have recommendations as to the most cost effective way to complete the requirements. A thorough explanation of all requirements should get the support to fund your recommendations.

The better organized you are and the more specific you are in organizing your training, the greater the possibility that something important will not be omitted. It is essential to safety.

The Stars Behind the Badge

By Sgt. Mike Griffin
LASD Aero Bureau

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Aero Bureau owes our continued success to the professional employees who keep our "Tradition of Airborne Service" alive every day. Without the efforts of all of these people, the Aero Bureau would never be able to turn a blade…

Our operations staff is composed of Management Secretary Lisa Moore, Operations Assistant Terri Davis, and Law Enforcement Technicians Laura Wills and Michellerene Marmolejo. They are responsible for a myriad of administrative tasks such as timekeeping, personnel reports, billing, fuel ordering, contract maintenance and preparation, budget and desk operations. Each has a number of collateral duties that task their skills and talents on a daily basis, and each performs in a manner that sets a standard for excellence.

Aircraft inspection and repairs, directed by Dennis Thompson, Chief of Helicopter Maintenance, is divided into two distinct sections. Sikorsky H-3 maintenance is supervised by Senior Mechanic Sid Edwards and facilitated by Maintenance Inspector Juan Garibay and mechanics Alan Butler, Steve Hortz, Duke Lam, Matt Pascone and Tony Nigro. Eurocopter maintenance is supervised by Senior Mechanic Bill Osborn and facilitated by Maintenance Inspector Larry Belden and mechanics Dale Buckeridge, Mike Craine, Pat Hickey, Dean Hendrickson, Carlos Hinestrosa, David Kristjanson, Tony Martinez, Jeff Marzano, Darren Ota and Derek Westphal. Keeping all of these talented people supplied with parts, tools, equipment and support is the job of warehouseman and all around "go to guy," Raul Perez.

The Avionics Support staff is made up of Senior Technician Larry Gilson, as well as technicians David Hess and Richard Webster. Each man works diligently to maintain the functionality of all of the systems on board our three Sikorsky H-3 rescue helicopters, 12 Eurocopter AS350B2 patrol helicopters and two Cessna 210 airplanes. Communication, navigation and specialized equipment includes FLIR 7500s, Nightsun IIs, N.A.T., Wulfsberg and Technisonic radios, AeroComputer Maps, Video Downlink, Lo-Jack and Sandel, Garmin and Ryan support systems.

Flying 18 aircraft nearly 12,000 hours a year in support of patrol operations, surveillance, search and rescue, transportation and photo flights, is a monumental task that requires a great deal from each member of the Aero Bureau. It is only with the support of these people that we have been able to provide outstanding service to the law enforcement officers and citizens of Los Angeles County for almost 80 years.