Inside Look: Patrolling the skies with LASD’s Aero Bureau

When members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Aero Bureau start their day, they have to be prepared for absolutely anything. 

They could be called to a rescue of an injured hiker in the mountains or be the extra set of eyes in the sky during a wild and crazy pursuit.

The unit is staffed 7 days a week and has a fleet of aircraft. Fifteen light helicopters that support patrol. Those are the ones we often see shinning the night sun on a suspect or crime scene.

The department also has three Super Puma helicopters. They are primarily used for rescue operations at locations that are not easy to get to. 

On board are members of the Emergency Services Detail. They are the department’s tactical paramedics and rescue and recovery specialists. Their primary function is to support the SWAT team when needed. It’s an intense, high adrenaline job desired by many within the LASD but it’s not easy to get into the unit.

Members have to go through 18 months of training before they are allowed on the helicopter and then once they’re in it takes another three months of training. 

On the day we flew with the crew of Air Rescue 5, we didn’t witness any rescues. Instead the crew simulated a rescue using reporter Gina Silva as a victim in the mountains. 

“Whatever your injury was, we’ve determined this is the appropriate apparatus to hoist you out, a full body harness and it’s what we use for patients who are alert oriented and only extremity type injuries,” said one of the paramedics. 

And just like that, Gina was dropped off on a mountain top and a ‘rescue’ was performed. Within seconds she was hoisted up to a second helicopter.

“Ok, I was a little bit nervous but these guys are such pros, they put me at ease and it really was a breeze,” Gina said.

One can only imagine how thankful people must feel as they’re being rescued by this team.