The training also has become much more structured and organized. The training can be extensive with formal classroom and in-flight training to learn how to manage and use all the technology and resources available. The newly assigned TFO must learn quite a bit about a sometimes completely strange environment known as the airborne law enforcement cockpit. They must learn to speak aviation with such terms and abbreviations as TCAS, TAWS, transponders, safety management systems and autorotation to name just a few. Although every agency has different requirements, many training programs from start to a fully qualified TFO can take anywhere from six months to a year. This does not include any additional even-more-specialized training that a TFO might need. If the agency does multi-mission work such as medevac hoisting or airborne use of force, the TFO has additional training. The medevac aircraft and ground ambulance may share many similarities but the cramped space and noise usually takes some getting used to. If airborne use of force is a mission, the TFO must qualify and maintain proficiency on their particular weapons.
Once fully mission qualified, there is constant recurrency training. As with most technologies, equipment and capabilities change rapidly and the TFO is expected to keep up with any changes and/or mew mission equipment that becomes available.
It has been said that a law enforcement aircraft is just an aircraft until a properly trained TFO makes it a true law enforcement aircraft. Operating in such a demanding environment requires all the same skills as a good ground officer:
- the ability to think quickly
- apply good tactics and common sense
- manage multiple sources of information
- effectively accomplish all their tasks without compromising safety
The British have recognized the intensive workload and responsibilities of the airborne law enforcement aircraft and require, by law, a crew of three: a pilot, a mission commander to work the police radios and a tactical flight officer to work the police equipment. They have the luxury of an additional crew member to get the job done!