Later this year the Bell Helicopter Training Academy will begin offering a two-day tactical flight officer (TFO) or “spotter” training course for law enforcement officers. Bell announced the course at the Airborne Law Enforcement Association convention this past summer. “There’s been a lot of interest in the course,” said Trey Wade, director of Bell Training Academy. Wade said that law enforcement agencies of all sizes have expressed interest, even ones with established in-house training departments.
“Even the large departments don’t do the transition from the police car to the helicopter very well or very efficiently,” Wade said. “Right now there is no national standard in the industry on how to conduct this training and most of the training is done on actual calls, even at the larger police forces.” Wade said the course is “the safest way to conduct this training at a high level anywhere in the industry.”
The $1,500, two-day course has two separate components: an online academic, self-paced component that the average student will take six to eight hours to complete, followed by the two-day course at Bell, much of it in a flight training device (FTD) configured especially for law-enforcement training. A typical student will have three to four sessions in the FTD.
The online knowledge course includes an introduction to airborne law enforcement, helicopter safety and operations, crew resource management and mission decision making, helicopter systems, basic helicopter operations, aeromedical factors and knowledge, night operations and introduction to patrol, and tactical procedures.
The FTD contains controls for the operation of forward-looking infrared devices and searchlights and presents a variety of “realistic scenarios.” Bell allows customer pilots and TFOs to be trained together in the FTD. Wade said prospective customers found this attractive as Bell provides roughly 50 percent of the nation’s law-enforcement pilot training. “A TFO can be here right after his pilot finishes initial or recurrent training and they both get in the FTD and train as an aircrew,” Wade said.
Bell sees this training spreading beyond law enforcement flight crews. Wade said the academic modules could be repackaged easily for training of dispatchers, new unit commanders without aviation experience, and even cross over to EMS crews. “I see this growing into an EMS course as well with little work,” Wade said. “We’re not trying to make money off this as much as we are trying to provide a service to an important customer base,” he said.