Spotlight On


Senior Constable Alex Barron – Air Wing

Meet Senior Constable Alex Barron of the Air Wing. Having come from a commercial flying background, Alex was very keen to be in a position to utilise his flying skills and combine his passion for Policing. Alex has completed 8 years of general duties policing and is now a valued member of the Air Wing.


What made you apply for Victoria Police?

Prior to joining Victoria Police I had completed the first 8 weeks of the NSW Probationary Constables Course, I had 6 weeks to go, but I was offered a Pilot job in a small commercial night freight company. Since I was a fully trained commercial Pilot I took the flying job, but a part of me always enjoyed the Policing role. I really enjoy the variety of work, and the luxury of being able to move within the various specialised units of the organisation.

 

How many years of General Duties, along with other units with Victoria Police did you complete prior to joining the Police Air Wing?

When I first joined Victoria Police a member advised me that you would need on average a minimum of 7-8 years general duties policing. Prior to joining the Air Wing, I had completed 8 years of service with Victoria Police. Although we do accept applications from members recently confirmed as constables, the more experience you have, the better chance you have of being competitive in the application process.

 

What interested you in working at the Victoria Police Air Wing?

Having come from a commercial flying background, I was very keen to be in a position to utilise my flying skills and combine with my passion for Policing. The opportunity of working on the Air Ambulance was also incredibly appealing, as was the variety of tasks that the Air Wing attends.

What does the role of Tactical Flight Officer actually involve?

We effectively have three distinctive roles for the Tactical Flight Officer depending on what helicopter they are working.

- On the Police Helicopter (Air 490) there are two Tactical Flight Officer's, one sits next to the pilot, the other sits in the middle of the helicopter. The front seat Tactical Flight Officer's role is essentially the "mission controller", they are required to assist the pilot with general navigation and minor roles within the cockpit, they provide the link between the middle seat TFO and the pilot (in respect to positioning the helicopter over a task).  They are also responsible for the air-to-ground communications with Police members. The front seat TFO manages the tasks that the helicopter responds to, with consultation of all members on board. If the helicopter is being used for a winch rescue, the front seat TFO is the winch operator. The middle seat TFO's responsibility is the operation of the Forward Looking Infra Red Camera (FLIR)/TV camera, the mapping software (an electronic version of the Melway). The middle seat TFO can assist the front seat TFO and the pilot with navigation. They are also responsible for any passenger safety and well being on board the helicopter. When winching, the middle seat TFO is the person that goes down the winch wire. It is the aim of the Air Wing to have all TFO's trained and qualified at the highest level to enable each TFO to occupy any seat in the helicopter, apart from the Pilot's position.

- On the Air Ambulance Helicopter (Air 495),there is only one TFO. This TFO works in conjunction with a Mica Flight Paramedic and essentially takes on an "assistant paramedic" role.This TFO has to be competent in all Police roles before being allowed to qualify for the Air Ambulance as the Air Ambulance Helicopter can be used on Police Tasks if the Police Helicopter is otherwise unavailable. This TFO undergoes an extensive training program with Air Ambulance Victoria and is expected to be proficient in a range of life saving medical equipment.


How does the rostering work at the Police Air Wing?

The rostering varies depending on which aircraft you are operating.  The Victoria Police Air Wing shares services a vehicle with Air Ambulance and will also have a Tactical Flight Officer on board.

The Police aircraft is operated everyday of the week, the roster is a 10 hour roster. The shifts of the police aircraft can be altered if the Police Air Wing is required on an emergency or specific task.

 

What is the difference between a Tactical Flight Officer and a Pilot?

Most of the Pilots have come from external organisations or the military, they attend the academy (for a shorter time than the usual recruits) and are sworn officers, they have all the powers etc. that a typical "sworn" member has. There are a few of the "older" Pilots that were the traditional sworn members prior to becoming helicopter pilots.

 

Did you require any specific qualifications for the role?

Whilst no specific qualifications are necessary to apply for the TFO role, most members at the Air Wing have a passion for aviation, and an obvious passion for policing. Some members come with a medical background that assists when working on the Air Ambulance. We have a vast array of experience at the unit, with members coming from numerous departments within the organisation, ranging from Criminal Investigation Units, Critical Incident Response Team, Special Operations Group, Technical Surveillance Unit, Highway Patrol, General Duties, the list goes on. This diversity adds to the ability of the Air Wing to respond and successfully manage a wide range of policing tasks.

 

What are the physical requirements/physical testing needed to be a member of the Police Air Wing?

There is a high level of physical fitness required of members of the Victoria Police Air Wing as you are often placed in situations where you may need to winch members from dangerous situations.  There are also a number of tests that need to be completed in the selection process which test both general fitness along with water competencies and include water winching, open water swimming and rafting. 

 

 
Victoria Police - Police Officers