The Fresno Police Department’s Air Support Unit provides aerial support to the Field Operations Division of the Fresno Police Department. Limited air support is provided to other units, departments, or agencies as needed within the sphere of Fresno.
Air Support Unit-Skywatch
2015 was the eighteen-year anniversary for the Fresno Police Department’s Air Support Unit and its helicopter patrol service. After starting in 1996 with three piston-driven helicopters, the unit has truly evolved. The Air Support Unit is the Department’s “Force Multiplier,” which results in law abiding citizens feeling more secure and ground officers having a significantly increased sense of security in tactical situations. Through this unit, police supervisors have a pursuit management tool which allows ground units to reduce speeds and distance themselves from pursued vehicles, reducing the potential for hazard arising from high-speed pursuits.
The Air Support Unit currently utilizes two Airbus 120 turbine helicopters. The Air Unit has logged over 12,164 accident-free flight hours in the turbine powered helicopters and a total of 26,102 accident-free helicopter flight hours since 1996.
Both helicopters are fully equipped with airborne law enforcement equipment such as: FLIR (Forward Looking Infra Red–a combined aircraft mounted video and infra red camera system), a 30 million candle power Night Sun searchlight, MDS computer, Aerocomputer Moving Map (combing 5 various topographical maps, aeronautical charts, parcel map, GPS navigational aide, etc), along with ProNet and Lo Jack receivers.
The Skywatch helicopters continue to play a major role in reducing the Fresno Police Department’s overall police response times by posting an average response time of less than a minute, 39 seconds overall to be exact. In the year 2015 the Skywatch helicopters achieved a goal of arriving first-on-scene to calls 65% of the time and able to cancel 285 ground units. Skywatch continues to increase flight hours as the economy continues to improve. Aircrews were able to recover $313,254.00 in stolen property in 2015 due to the increased flight hours. The Air Support Unit prides itself on its continued support of Fresno Police Department personnel and ultimately for providing a much needed blanket of security to the citizens and police officers of Fresno.
Skywatch currently has one sworn Police Sergeant Helicopter Pilot, one civilian Chief Pilot, two sworn Police Helicopter Command Pilots, two sworn Police Helicopter Tactical Flight Officers, and two civilian mechanics.