Matching aircraft and equipment for best use in LE, SAR and EMS

Stable, powerful platforms with recon package are required for these specialized missions.

Night vision goggles

New Hanover County (NC) Sheriff’s Dept uses the Robinson R44.

NVGs are another example of technology being transferred from strictly military flying to the civilian flying side.

Texas Dept of Public Safety Pilot Martin Jackson—who is also president of the Airborne Law Enforcement Assn (ALEA)—was checked out recently on NVGs.

He comments, “Once you fly with NVGs you’ll never again fly at night without them.” In the past 5 years, numerous law enforcement agencies have made the transition and are extremely pleased from both a safety and tactical perspective.

In addition to the purchase of the equipment, proper training is essential. Although new to the civilian market, several excellent vendors offer NVG training, including American Eurocopter, Aviation Specialties Unlimited, Bell Helicopter Customer Training Academy and Night Flight Concepts.

Cessna 185 outfitted for surveillance. Single-engine aircraft are widely used in ALE assignments such as traffic enforcement and patrol.

NVGs are not, however, a magic bullet to preventing accidents.

Kevin Means, currently with the San Diego PD Aviation Unit and author of Tactical Helicopter Missions: How to Fly Safe, Effective Airborne Law Enforcement Missions, explains, “NVGs are tremendous tools for enhancing safety of flight in many dark environments, but they have limitations.

Crewmembers should use NVGs to enhance safety when performing missions they would normally perform with the naked eye. But it’s a mistake to assume that NVGs will always enable crewmembers to see adequately in all dark environments—they won’t.

San Antonio PD flies a Schweizer 333 patrol mission over San Antonio TX.

Low light level conditions, combined with low-contrast environments, can make it impossible for crewmembers to see what they need to see. The end results can be disastrous.”


Matching the proper aircraft and equipment to the mission is critical for the longevity of a police aviation unit. If the unit operates effectively and is producing tangible results, support for it will grow, and the costs associated with establishing and running an ALE unit are viewed as supporting and promoting the agency’s mission and objectives.

Ken Solosky retired from the New York City Police Dept Aviation Unit as chief pilot after 21 years of service. He is currently chief pilot for the Newark (NJ) Police Aviation Unit.




1 | 2| 3