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Aviation Section

Carlos A. Espinosa


[email protected]

Office: 407-254-6600

Robert A. Branch


[email protected]

Office: 407-254-6600

OCSO Helicopter flying near Epcot Center

A well equipped aviation unit is one of the most valuable assets a law enforcement agency can have and Orange County has one of the best.  The Sheriff's Office Aviation Section first began in the mid 1950's with a pair of fixed winged aircraft.  

The Aviation Section currently has three Bell 407 helicopters, a Bell 206L4 helicopter, and a Cessna T206H Stationair airplane in its inventory.  The mission of the Aviation Section continues to evolve with new technology and through needs assessments based on increased threats.

The function of the Aviation Section is to provide aerial law enforcement support for incidents such as vehicle surveillance, foot pursuits, searches for criminal suspects, searches for missing or endangered individuals, providing air cover during critical incidents with the ability to provide live video microwave downlink, photo flights for investigative purposes, pre and post disaster missions, damage assessments, power and blackout assessments, environmental missions and assessments, code enforcement aerial support, search and rescue, fire spotting and other fire support, public relations and educational details, aerial security for presidential and cabinet member visits, and homeland security missions. 

The Sheriff’s Office Aviation Section also provides aerial support to a variety of governmental partners, including the Orange County Board of County Commissioners, Department of Environmental Protection, Orange County Fire and Rescue to assist them with wildfire suppression strategies, Orange County Code Enforcement, the Orange County Emergency Operations Center, United States Secret Service, United States Transportation Security Administration, and all of the municipal police departments within Orange County. 

OCSO helicopter pilot surveying area below
Thermal imaging of deputies apprehending an individual

 The Aviation Section’s top crime fighting tool continues to be the use of thermal imaging to disclose the position of criminal suspects. The cameras on all of the agency aircraft are very sensitive, and a trained Tactical Flight Observer (TFO) can discover suspects that are hiding in thick brush, up in trees, in garbage cans, and even in the water. When used in conjunction with an agency K-9, this method has an extremely high success rate. Thermal imaging has also been used by the Aviation Section to locate lost hikers, boaters in distress, Alzheimer’s patients, and injured victims of crime.

OCSO Helicopter in a field preparing for flight

The Sheriff's Office takes the training of its personnel seriously and the Aviation Section is no exception.  All of the pilots in the Aviation Section are qualified as Commercial Pilots by the Federal Aviation Administration, and several of the pilots are Certified Flight Instructors as well. 

 The Aviation Section embraces a crew concept, with the TFO doing the majority of the airborne police work, leaving the pilot free to concentrate on the safe operation of the aircraft.