SPECIAL UNIT PROFILE

Fairfax County Police Helicopter Division

Northern Virginia police dept uses matched pair of Bell 407s for law enforcement, security, medevac.


People and machines

Chief pilot of the Helicopter Division is Master Police Officer Paul Schaaf. A 6250-hr pilot with 11 years’ experience with the US Army/ National Guard, he has served almost 20 years with FCPD, 17 of them with the Helicopter Division.

Fairfax County Chief of Police David Rohrer (L) and Helicopter Division Commander 1st Lieut Wayne Inabinet with a unit Bell 407.

Schaaf and senior pilot Master Pilot Officer Mike Mountjoy are FCPD’s only sworn law enforcement officer pilots—the remaining 4 pilots are civilians. The reason for this, explains Schaaf, is that medevac operation insurance only covers pilots with more than 1000 hrs of helicopter PIC experience (plus a commercial-instrument rating and 200 hrs night-time.

No other FCPD pilots met these requirements. Operating into more challenging landing zones (LZs) requires what Mountjoy describes as “a higher degree of expertise,” but he notes that the necessarily high level of crew coordination actually contributes to the mission. Schaaf notes that, of the 6 pilots with the unit, 3 are ex-US Army, 1 is ex-US Navy and 2 are former commercial helicopter pilots. All are NVG qualified.

FCPD’s 2 Bell 407s—which date from 1996 and 2000—are fully standardized mission-enhanced aircraft. Schaaf explains that Paradigm Aerospace Corp of Mount Pleasant PA modified both helicopters under the “ME407 project” between Sep 2006 and Jan 2007.

ME407 includes more than 40 operational and safety enhancements, of which the following are the more noteworthy.
• Gyrostabilized L3 Wescam MX15 fully integrated with LE5000 moving map
• Vectorbeam Technologies A800 Trakkabeam searchlight
• Technisonics TDFM7000 NV tactical radio system
• Stowable 12.1-inch AeroComputers NVG monitor
• NVG compatible instrument panel and center console
• Chelton Flight Systems HITS with 3D traffic, terrain and obstacle awareness
• 406-MHz GPS position-transmitting emergency locator transmitter (ELT)
• Improved medical interior
• Tyler Tech tactical platform (can carry 4 SWAT team members)
• Aeronautical Accessories high-visibility cockpit doors
• Cabin photo window

Paradigm nose-mounted the Wescam MX15 unit and moved the searchlight toward the tail to eliminate center-of-gravity issues. Schaaf says the MX15 is “just phenomenal—it makes all the difference in the world in our mission.”

“We’re quite content running the pair of 407s,” he adds, “but we would like a slightly larger cabin.” Schaaf admits that the unit has eyed the MD900 as possible future equipment. But, he continues, “Bell support has been phenomenal. We’ve never been left waiting for a part—it sounds impossible to believe, but it’s true. Specifically, their AOG service has been 100% consistent.” Schaaf’s job requires him to wear 2 hats—administrative work and duty flying. What he loves, he says, is “getting out and doing it.” Without pausing, he adds, “The Bell 407 is the other favorite part of the job.”

Master Pilot Officer Mike Mountjoy is the unit’s senior pilot. He has 5500 hrs TT (all of them rotary-wing) and has 29 years of service with FCPD—10 years on the road and 19 years with the Helicopter Division. In an average year he flies around 300 hrs. Like other senior officers, Mountjoy could retire at 20 years, although the FCPD standard is currently 25.

He explains, too, that officers who retire after 30 years can receive 85% of their salary but have to pay their full medical insurance. With his lifelong interest in aviation, Mountjoy confesses that he has “the best job in the department.”

Civilian Pilot Dan Bittner has 5000 hrs TT. An ex-US Army pilot now in his 8th year with the unit, he flies 250–300 hrs a year. It was Bittner who developed the unit’s Web page, which gives access to Metars, Notams, weather and safety information. He does most of the IT work and database management for the unit, plus medevac reports and statistical analysis on a “catch-as-catch-can” basis. In addition, Bittner acts as liaison for emergency mass casualty evacuation planning with several law enforcement entities in the Capital Region.

Most of all, naturally, he enjoys the flying. “The reward of an accomplished mission is something we all enjoy,” he says. “It’s the feeling of having done something good.”

Safety issues

Aviation Safety Officer Chuck Angle served for 30 years in the US Army before joining the unit in Oct 1998. He has around 8000 hrs TT, including 240 hrs fixed-wing. Angle went to Bell for 407 training and attends recurrent training in Arlington TX every year.

(L–R) Chief Pilot MPO Paul Schaaf, Senior Pilot MPO Michael Mountjoy, Aviation Safety Officer Chuck Angle and Civilian Pilot Dan Bittner.

Noting that the unit has experienced 2 FADEC emergencies over the years, he also considers Bell’s FADEC-loss course invaluable. FCPD Helicopter Division Bell 407s have an empty weight substantially greater than that of most civilian 407s, says Angle, but MTOW is the same—5250 lb. Since they have to be able to perform a vertical takeoff with a 300-lb person to a height of 300 ft, they are restricted to carrying 750 lb of fuel. Flight following is conducted via the Public Safety Center (PSC)—or 911 dispatch center—in Fair Lake VA.

Day minima within the county are 800 ft/2 miles—night minima are 1000/3. As safety officer, Angle takes pains to ensure that all safety data is accurate and presented clearly. Among his concerns are broadcast energy sources, especially towers whose high-intensity radiation can affect avionics. This is “a kind of dream assignment,” he says. “The air traffic controllers here—both IAD and DCA—bend over backwards for us.

They choreograph this multitiered symphony—and then we come along. And they accommodate our needs—somehow they make it work.” Maintenance Dir of Maintenance Larry Helwig and Mechanic Jeff Young are both A&P/IAs. One is always on-site from Monday–Thursday, the other from Wednesday–Saturday.They are on-call 24/7.

Both men worked for Ag Rotors in Gettysburg PA from 1983–89, when that company did the maintenance for the FCPD Helicopter Division. Young joined FCPD as soon as it started its in-house maintenance program in Feb 1990, and Helwig came in almost immediately after. Both Helwig and Young still live in Pennsylvania but stay locally while they are on duty.

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