LAPD Air Support Division

Powervamp Portapump and the LAPD Air Support Division.

The Los Angeles Police Department Air Support Division (ASD) is the airborne law enforcement division of the LAPD. It’s the largest airborne law enforcement organization in the United States and operates from the LAPD Hooper Heliport.

Established in 1956 and originally devoted to aerial traffic enforcement, it has grown to support a wide variety of police activity. Today, its operations are divided between Air Support To Regular Operations (ASTRO) and Special Flight Section (SFS).

“…an antiquated pump and separate compressor and could take as long as 40 minutes (to de-fuel 50 %)…”

The ASD motto is ‘The mission is the same, only the vehicle has changed’ and currently operates 19 aircraft from the largest municipal police aviation unit in the world, in addition to having the world’s largest roof-top airport and world’s busiest heliport.

LAPD Air Support Division HQ

The LAPD Hooper Heliport is the worlds largest rooftop airport located between Chinatown and Downtown Los Angeles.

The department consists of around 88 officers and 19 helicopters including 2 x Bell 206B3 JetRangers, 10 x Eurocopter AS-350B2 A Stars, 4 x Airbus H125 and a Bell 407s and Beachcraft King Air 200.  The helicopters are kept 95% fuelled at all times and are prepared for routine patrol mission assignments.

The LAPD Air Support Division also work very closely with SWAT, (special weapons and tactics), and are responsible for deploying them into potentially life threatening environments as fast as possible to ensure the public is protected in the event of a dangerous situation occurring.

“…Police Captain, Sean Parker, recognised the importance of a faster fuel system…”

Prior to a SWAT deployment the helicopters are fitted with external benches for officer transportation, and subsequently required to de-fuel by 50% to compensate for the additional 227kgs (500lbs) weight of 2 x fully kitted officers. The de-fuelling exercise used to be carried out with an antiquated pump and separate compressor and could take as long as 40 minutes to remove enough jet A1 to facilitate a safe take-off.

Powervamp Portapump with the LAPD

The Powervamp Portapump is relied upon to safely fuel and de-fuel all the LAPD helicopters, such as this Airbus A125.

However, it was during an incident in May 2017 that the de-fuelling process came under serious scrutiny.  Local law enforcement had been called to an address in the Sunland district of Los Angeles district where an intruder had armed himself with a gun belonging to one of the residents of the property that had been broken into.  Upon realising the serious of the situation, the Police had backed off and requested immediate support from the SWAT team.

“…Malachi was impressed with its portability, compact design and ability to filter fuel to 5 microns…”

With all helicopters fuelled and ready for routine patrols, the de-fuelling process could have resulted in a substantial delay in take off with potentially disastrous consequences had an Eurocopter not been returning to the air support division from a routine service – with 1/2 tank of fuel.

The SWAT team were able to secure the external benches and facilitate a quick turnaround which resulted in them taking control of the situation upon arrival and eventually bringing it to a satisfactory conclusion following a 5hr stand-off.

LAPD Air support Division Portapump

LAPD pilots appreciate the convenience of the Portapump allowing them to facilitate the fast deployment of the SWAT teams.

Despite the successful mission, experienced Police Instructor Pilot Sean Malachi vocalised his concerns over the de-fuelling procedure and insisted the department research alternative fuelling / de-fueling systems.  Police Captain, Sean Parker, also recognised the importance of a faster fuel system and authorised the procurement of a replacement pump.

“…the Portapump system has solved what you would think would be a not so difficult problem…”

Malachi found the Powervamp Portapump whilst searching online and was impressed with its portability, compact design and ability to filter fuel to 5 microns with water separation to less than 2 parts per million.  The Portapump can also be powered from any 24V-28V DC supply, or GPU, which meant it didn’t require power cables being dragged out over the heliport each time it was required.

An enquiry was made through Powervamp US distributer, AERO Specialties, and after working closely with Tony Cale and Seth Stansell to ensure the Portapump met the required criteria, as well as Powervamp’s US aviation consultant, Brian Clear, to facilitate the exchange of information from US to UK, an order was placed.
Powervamp Portapump

The stainless steel Portapump MK3 can deliver 100ltrs per minute whilst filtering to 5 microns.

The Portapump has now been in service for several months and has proven itself on numerous occasions already.  A bespoke mobile frame was constructed to house the pump and batteries making de-fuelling even quicker, and safer, for the LAPD Air Support Division.

Finally, Pilot Sean Malachi comments,

“The Portapump system has solved what you would think would be a not so difficult problem. Removing fuel an aircraft and doing it quickly isn’t typical in aviation. We were in need of a system that would remove fuel from an aircraft quickly and do it without any other separate supporting parts or systems necessary for its function.

The Portapump has solved this by allowing us to do it at a much greater rate than our previous system. We have to be ready at a moments notice to respond quickly and effectively. Using this system will get us there faster ultimately doing what we swore to do, protect and serve.”

Our thanks to Police Instructor Pilot Sean Malachi of the LAPD Air Support Division

in his assistance in creating this article.


For more information on the Powervamp Portapump – visit our product page HERE.





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