No unit in the Department of Public Safety embraces the maxim “Watching Over Westchester” more literally than the Aviation Unit. This highly specialized unit comprises two helicopters and four police officer pilots who protect Westchester from their unique perch in the skies over our county.
The Aviation Unit assists and supports every public safety division and all local law enforcement in the county. The number of requests from local law enforcement agencies for Aviation Unit support continues to rise year after year.
The Aviation Unit provides assistance to all emergency service entities (police, fire, EMS, and emergency management) in Westchester County as well as other county agencies. When requested, the unit provides assistance to state and federal agencies and on occasion to jurisdictions outside Westchester County.
During routine patrol flights, the aircrew is able to inspect:
- Remote areas of county parks and properties inaccessible by ground units
- The Hudson River, Long Island Sound and their shorelines to identify environmental violations such as illegal dumping, pollution, or other problems
- Critical infrastucture, and utility and railroad rights-of-way, as part of ongoing counter-terrorism efforts
- Any other locations as part of police or public safety matters
The specialized services provided by the Aviation Unit include:
- Aerial photography
- Video downlink
- Hoist rescue
- Long-line operations (rescue, cargo movement, personnel insertion) and searches
- Regular support of patrol units
The majority of these missions can be performed with either the newer Bell 407 or the older Hughes OH-6A aircraft, but some can only be executed using the equipment of the newer helicopter.
The Aviation Unit also has the capability of responding to brush fires and assisting the fire service with fire suppression efforts. The Bell 407 aircraft carries a “bambi-bucket” that can drop up to 160 gallons of water on a large brush fire or in a remote area.
Aviation Unit pilots maintain FAA commercial pilot licenses and train regularly to perform the highly specialized missions required of airborne law enforcement. The unit has two pilots designated as Certified Flight Instructors by the FAA to expand the training capabilities of the unit. The unit trains on a regular basis with other divisions and units within the Department of Public Safety and other agencies.