Street Stories When Pigs Fly

When Pigs Fly: When You Gotta Go, You Gotta Go

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.”

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.

By Thonie Hevron

Mysteries to keep you reading through the night.

7 replies on “When Pigs Fly: When You Gotta Go, You Gotta Go”

This from former Sonoma County Sheriff’s co-worker and friend, Will Wallman:
Thonie: Just read your, “When pigs fly” and it brought back to me some memories, one bad and two that were pretty funny. Here goes, funny first, I worked 13 years on Graves at the (Sonoma) Valley Sub with the same partner. I learned so much from him. Over time our co-workers referred to us as “the perfect married couple.” We all had PG rated stuff on our locker doors. The only thing I ever saw in all of 13 years was a bumper sticker that said” Never try to teach a pig to sing. It’s a waste of time and annoys the pig.”
Another day we went to shotgun range together and for reasons still unexplained the rangemaster decided we all needed to shoot skeet. Both of us had been shot gunners since about age 10 and decimated everything thrown up. Partner told the rangemaster, “ Well , I guess when burglars start flying we’ll be ready for ’em.”
The bad one involved a fatal private plane crash with ensuing fire. Fire at a plane crash normally rules out crash due to running out of fuel. No fire strongly suggests no fuel, pilot error. In this instance the pilot, according to witnesses, made a rapid descent with a tailwind (always a no-no) and touched down with his front wheel 2 feet short of the runway collapsing the front gear followed shortly by the aft gear. This led to a skidding stop and fire that burned some of the plane but spread (by wind) to about 5 acres of grassland. Remarkably the fire damage to the aircraft burned off the wings where the fuel is stored but left the cabin intact. Clearly the cause of death was easy to figure out, blunt force trauma. While extracting the remains I could smell a very strong putrid odor of feces. Without going into great detail it was obvious that this pilot experienced in flight diarrhea in great quantities. My on scene assessment which was shared by our Forensic Pathologist and eventually FAA was the pilot became ill during flight, experienced explosive diarrhea in flight and attempted landing emergency violating recognized flight rules (landing with a tailwind) which caused misjudgment of altitude resulting in crash landing.
Hope that didn’t gross you out but that really happened and I tried to keep it PG rated for you.

Thanks Will for sharing. I’m sure most pilots have experienced this same type of “in-flight emergency” at some time or another. Sadly this one ended up the way it did. Although I flew both rotary and fixed-wing aircraft, this is just another “reason” I prefer helicopters… you can land quicker, and even hide behind a tree when you gotta go.- Ron

Oh, do I know those moments. I had one while riding the NY subway on a security job for the NY Stock Exchange and Ron was on our team. Long story short, I bolted off the train looking for a restroom, convinced that I was going to ruin the only suit I had brought for the job. I asked the subway ticket takers for a restroom, no go. Ran up to street level. I ran to and asked two different restaurants…nope, customers only. When I finally found one after running around like a crazy man, on the brink of disaster, I was “in the process” for about a minute or so and heard a knock on the door with my name being called out, asking if I was OK. I asked myself “How in the hell did someone know I was in here?” It was Ron. He had seen my distress on the subway and followed me (running as fast as I was!) off and up to street level to make sure I was ok. Now, that is a true buddy. Thanks again, Ron!

Welcome to Thonie's world!

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