Share the value of Law Enforcement flying
On Saturday April 23rd I had the distinct pleasure of being able to fly in the California Highway Patrol [CHP] Airbus H125A-Star helicopter with Officer/Pilot Joe Kingman and Flight Officer/Paramedic, Demian Abel.
A few weeks prior I watched a dramatic rescue of an illegal climber on Morro Rock in California. The video highlighted not only the sophistication of the multi-million dollar helicopter, but the skill and professionalism of the rescuers and pilot on board.
On social media, our community was abuzz with commentary about the rescue with well-deserved praise for the CHP officers involved. Yet, no one, save me, mentioned that this rescue flight was a prime example of General Aviation. I am always on the look out for ways to educate our community about the different types of flying that comprise General Aviation. I immediately contacted Officer Kingman and asked if I could interview him and he graciously offered an interview and a flight in the helicopter.
It was a sunny, yet windy day on the Central Coast of California when the familiar blue and gold of the CHP arrived at Oceano Airport. This particular helicopter is nearly brand new having 252 hours on it. It is fully equipped with the latest in cameras, spotlights, rescue/medical equipment and avionics. Within a few minutes of arrival of N979HP, a grandfather arrived with two small boys. Joe and Demian were so gracious to show the boys the helicopter and talk with them about flying, though one of the boys admitted he wanted to be a fire fighter.
I was a bit concerned about the amount of wind and the effect it would have on the aircraft. I had never flown in a helicopter before. Joe explained that the rotor blades absorb the majority of the turbulence. We completed a pre-flight briefing and we departed the airport and headed up the coastline. As a pilot I thought I was used to hearing a fair amount of chatter on the radio while on flight following. Yet, the CHP helicopter concurrently monitors the frequencies of the Sheriff, Police, Fire Authorities, State Parks as well as their own. As the flight progressed I learned more about the truly collaborative work the CHP helicopter provides. The view was stunningly beautiful and the ride was surprisingly smooth.
Officer Joe Kingman is a 27-year veteran of the California Highway Patrol, 19 of those years as a pilot. I asked him if there were any common misconceptions about what the CHP helicopters do. He answered, “ I don’t think that the public knows that our helicopters always have a medic on board.
Additionally while folks generally know about our pursuit and surveillance they don’t know that we provide medical evacuations for car accidents and support police and fire departments.”
“The tax payers own this aircraft,” said Officer Kingman. Their missions support not only the citizens of the communities but also a multitude of other public service agencies.
Flight Officer/Paramedic Demian Abel has been flying for 5 years but has been serving for 15 years since the academy. He took great pride in showing me the ship’s avionic systems. I was awestruck by the abilities of the cameras onboard to locate vehicles, people and even animals by their heat signatures. We flew near Bishop Peak, and I could clearly see the hikers on the trail below us. Demian said that they routinely fly near these popular trails after dark using the infrared camera to see if there is anyone stranded or injured.
As we hovered over the 101 freeway we talked about how in the event of a mudslide, or earthquake, helicopters are a lifeline. We agreed that our smaller General Aviation airports are a vital part of that lifeline as well.
When we look up and see the law enforcement helicopter above us, it might be easy to think that they are looking for someone speeding on the freeway. If it is spring or summer more likely, the men and women on board are working collaboratively with other agencies on search and rescue or med evac. Through the use of cutting edge technology this “eye in the sky” has a keen advantage in pursuit and surveillance. Our communities are safer and more secure because of the work they do. No matter the mission, law enforcement flying is General Aviation.
We need to continue to educate our communities about the vital role that General Aviation plays in not only recreational and business flying but in emergency response as well. A few years ago I made a “What is General Aviation?” video that is available to any airport or pilot group that would like to use it.
Oceano Airport Celebration: Salute to Veterans is May 13th and 14th. We are happy to announce the N979HP will be on display and open to the public. Thank you again to the California Highway Patrol and in particular Officers Joe Kingman and Demian Abel. I think I have the coolest selfie ever!