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Publication Aviation Units in Large Law Enforcement Agencies, 2007

Lynn Langton

July 9, 2009    NCJ 226672

Examines the specialized airborne police units that operate fixed-wing planes or helicopters in large state and local law enforcement agencies. Topics include the types and characteristics of aircraft operated by law enforcement aviation units, the functions performed by these units, and the personnel and monetary resources assigned to the units. The report includes comparisons of the use of law enforcement planes versus helicopters and covers safety and training requirements for pilots.


  • Aviation units spent an estimated total of $300 million in 2007 on aircraft purchases, leasing and financing, and maintenance and fuel.
  • In 2007, 92% of aviation units engaged in vehicle pursuits. Almost 90% of units performed counternarcotics missions, and about 80% conducted counterterrorism missions. Nearly 70% of units engaged in firefighting activities. Fewer units reported using aircraft for SWAT member insertions (36%), emergency medical response (26%), and prisoner transport (22%).
  • A greater percentage of units had helicopters (88%) than planes (50%). In absolute numbers, units operated more than twice the number of helicopters (604) than planes (295).

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Census of Law Enforcement Aviation Units (CLEAU)

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