By Ron Corbin, Retired LAPD, LVMetro PD

LAPD Airship

There was a new sergeant at Air Support who felt that one of the air crews was wasting time; that they should be doing more proactive patrol from the skies and providing quicker responses to patrol calls. In an effort to oversee what was actually being accomplished, one night this sergeant went on a ride-along with “Pilot Jones” and “Observer Smith.”

Flying for two-plus hours at a time, sometimes “Nature” calls. So when air crews need to use a restroom, there are fewer locations to take advantage of this physiological function then there are for street officers. There are no “porta potties” floating around among the clouds. Landing at an airport is an option, but takes longer for actual landing clearances and a dash for the pilot’s lounge. The best options were helipads on one of the newer police stations, but there were only a couple of these. Terminal Annex, LA’s main postal building, had a rooftop helipad with a stairwell door leading to a small restroom. It was not much larger than a commercial airplane lavatory. This was the most convenient place for air crews to use when flying in the downtown area.

With over an hour left scheduled in the patrol flight before returning to the main heliport, the sergeant notified the pilot over the intercom that he had eaten too many burritos from the local “roach coach” and needed to “hit the head” … with an emphasis on “quickly!” Realizing that the interior of a police helicopter was a cramped and confined space with very little air circulation, Jones turned and dove the ‘copter at warp speed towards Terminal Annex. Flaring the aircraft as if in a combat zone under fire, the skids had no sooner touched down when the rear door opened and the sergeant bailed out, running and unbuckling his “Sam Browne” equipment belt at the same time. By the time he reached the stairwell door, his pants looked like some of the fashion statements that certain ethnic, young guys wear today in public.

After a few minutes, a radio call came-out that officers were in foot pursuit of a suspect with a gun. This is a type of call that needs an air unit, and fast. So, without hesitation, Jones took-off while Smith communicated to Dispatch that the air unit was en route to the location. Just as the skids cleared the edge of the roof top, the sergeant came running out onto the helipad while simultaneously trying to buckle his pants. Without a radio, he was stranded in the cold, night air for nearly an hour before Jones and Smith returned to pick him up.

When they landed, the air crew could see the “daggers” emitting from the sergeant’s eyes. As soon as he boarded into the rear seat, got strapped-in, and connected his helmet to the intercom, Jones gave a sarcastic apology saying, “Sorry to leave you Sarge, but a priority call came out and we’ve been told that we need to be more proactive in our mission.”

Flying back to Air Support’s heliport, not a word was spoken between the sergeant and the crew. As soon as the landing was finished, he exited the aircraft and “stormed-off” to the operations trailer. Jones and Smith burst-out in uncontrollable laughter. The sergeant never again said anything about air crews not properly responding to calls.

“Negative flyby, Ghostrider, the ‘toilet’ pattern is full.”

~~~~

After military service, Ron joined LAPD in 1971 with the ambition of becoming one of their helicopter pilots. He achieved this goal in 1974, working his way up from Command Pilot status to an Instructor Pilot. In 1976, he was involved in a training crash that killed his student pilot and left Ron with 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 70% of his body.
He was given a disability pension in 1977. During many months and years of hospitalization, post incident surgeries and physical rehabilitation, he finished his education earning a BA, MS, and PhD. He rebuilt his life around new careers, including being a school teacher and principal. However, law enforcement and security was still his primary love. Unable to do police work, he pursued various jobs in private security and training in personal safety, including being a body guard, director of security, consultant and trainer for security forces at DOE nuclear facilities.
He moved to Las Vegas in 1993 and joined LVMPD. On behalf of the Department, he served as a CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) expert consultant to various public and private entities in Las Vegas. He retired in 2011 after several years as the Police Academy Training Manager.
Ron has won sixteen awards for his writing skills from the Public Safety Writers Association. He has been married to his HS sweetheart for over 52 years, and has three children and seven grandchildren.