History of the Air Support Division

The Los Angeles Police Department’s airborne law enforcement program began with one helicopter in 1956. This helicopter, a Hiller 12J was assigned primarily for traffic patrol of the City’s freeway system and was assigned to the traffic Enforcement Division. In 1957 after a full year in operation, the “Helicopter Unit” flew 775 hours.

In 1963, a second helicopter was added to the fleet and two years later a third was added. In 1968, a turbine powered Bell 206A Jet Ranger was added to the fleet. This helicopter significantly decreased police response time. As a result, the “Helicopter Unit” began to respond to unusual occurrences and other police emergencies.

The “Helicopter Unit” experienced major expansion in 1974 and became officially designated as Air Support Division (ASD). Air Support Division consisted of 77 sworn personnel with 15 helicopters and a Cessna 210 in it’s fleet.

The fleet remained virtually unchanged until 1988 when the first Aerospatiale AS350B-1 was added to the fleet. Today at full capacity, the fleet consists of:

7 – Airbus H125
7 – Airbus AS350B2
2 – Bell 206 B3
1 – Bell 412 EP
1 – King Air 200 (Fixed Wing)

A study commissioned by NASA and conducted by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s (JPL) Space Technology Applications Office confirmed the study and report findings as follows:

  1. The number of Part 1 Property Crimes is reduced when an LAPD helicopter is overhead.

  2. The number of arrests associated with radio calls is three times higher with the involvement of LAPD aircrews.

  3. The citizens of Los Angeles accept helicopter patrols as a necessary part of the City’s police system and strongly favor their continuation.

  4. Department ground based officers universally support a strong airborne law enforcement program within the department.