Photos and Story by Tim Pruitt
In the last week of July 2017, Reno, Nevada, the “Biggest Little City” was host to the Airborne Law Enforcement Association (ALEA) Conference, its annual education, and exposition event. Public safety aviation professionals from across the world came to network, learn and share information during the premier event in public safety aviation each year where those who come to learn, can do so from the finest in the field.
ALEA staff again put together a bumper lineup of conference courses for attendees. Courses that included Airborne Thermographer Certification, Aviation Safety Management Systems & Human Factors, Aviation Safety Officer, Aviation Unit Manager, Fixed-Wing Operations, Flight Instructor Refresher/Train-the-Trainer Courses, Tactical Flight Officer (TFO) Courses and the IA Maintenance Renewal course. For the first time this year, an Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Operators Course was held that drew high enrollment. Each class was instructed by the best in airborne public aviation and filled with those eager to learn more about their chosen field.
As with previous sessions held during the annual ALEA show, the association makes sure classes are updated annually with new content as laws and best practices for airborne law enforcement evolve. A new course added this year to the lineup was the Remote Pilot Training Course developed for agencies that desire to train personnel to operate small unmanned aircraft under the new FAA Part 107 standards to add an extra dimension to their airborne capabilities. ALEA has chosen to embrace the onset of the UAS market as it relates to law enforcement instead of decreeing the dangers of new UAS operations as others in the industry warn. ALEA, having been at the forefront of law enforcement application has also elected to host a UAS specific event in New Orleans this October that will delve more deeply into UAS operations and public safety applications in much the same way as the annual conference is aimed.
A Safety Symposium took place on Thursday, July 27th, including a panel to discuss aircraft loss of control and its impact on aviation safety. The Aviation Safety Officer’s Roundtable was also hosted later the same day. Facilitated by Bryan Smith, it allowed officers to discuss issues that concerned them relating to aviation safety in public service applications.
Once again this year, ALEA’s Water Egress and Survival Training course proved the most popular course of the show. Adding the real world component of underwater escape in the event of a water landing; the course also requires practical application of the skills learned. Practical application of attendees newly acquired skills were performed at Peppermill Resort’s pool that afternoon much to the chagrin of unsuspecting pool goers confronted with a large group of aviators wading in chest deep water in flight suits.
The Reno-Sparks Convention Center served as the host venue for the trade show portion of the event, while the Peppermill Resort and Casino hosted attendees participating in courses, each day, along with many of the evening events hosted by vendors that are looked forward to by many each year.
This year’s after-hours events included annual events from MD Helicopter, Bell Helicopter, and Airbus, along with additional after-hours events held by Helinet, CNC Technologies and for the first time, Heliweb also hosted an invite-only party during the event that celebrates our two year anniversary.
The Reno Sparks Convention Center housing the exhibition floor was packed with the latest cutting-edge technology for public safety aviation where decision makers gathered knowledge on the practical application of new technology and how it would benefit their operations from the hundreds of vendors in attendance.
Although down from previous years, static aircraft was again a fixture of many exhibits from OEM’s in attendance, with aircraft from Washoe County, NV showcasing their recently acquired Army surplus Bell UH-1H, Contra Costa County who’s Bell 407 was the centerpiece of the Bell Helicopter exhibit. Pinal County flew in one of the departments Bell OH-58 helicopters, also a recent acquisition of the Army surplus 1033 program, along with San Bernardino County, California Sheriff’s Office who flew in their new H125 that would serve as the centerpiece for the Airbus booth. Night Flight Concepts utilized a police package Robinson R-66 during the show to showcase their NVG mods, and Robinson’s turnkey solutions, along with other head-turners yet to become part of the public safety aviation world. Leonardo Helicopters AW009, and MD Helicopters mockup of the MD-6XX that will feature digital cockpit and a four-bladed tail rotor system also drew a significant amount of interest during the show.
During the opening ceremony of the show, it was also announced that effective January 1, 2018, the association would be evolving to encompass a broader range of membership and transitioning to the new name of APSA, the Airborne Public Safety Association. The move, in planning for almost seven years will see ALEA absorb the members of the HRRA to encompass not just law enforcement aviation, but all of the entities that provide airborne public safety as their motto of “Advancing Public Safety Aviation” comes to life (see the full story on page xx).
As the curtain drew to a close on the last ever ALEA show before the event transitions to its new name of “APSCON” in 2018, it was evident that Reno did indeed live up to its “little big town” reputation. As the thin blue line rolled out of Reno, attendees often commented how they ranked the Reno show as one of the best yet for ALEA, as even the temperatures in Reno cooperated for the duration of the show. The weather, along with the well-planned schedule and convention floor signaled the final success for ALEA before embarking on a new piece of history for the association is written as 2018 ushers in the first of many “APSCON” shows for the newly named APSA.
ALEA AWARD WINNERS
As is the custom on the final night of the show, ALEA hosted its awards reception on Friday the 28th of July, held in the Peppermill’s Tuscany Ball Room. ALEA Executive Director/CEO Dan Schwarzbach presided over the event as attendees gathered to honor the following award winners
Jim Di Giovanna – Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Aero Bureau, (ret.)
Robert L. Cormier Award
Constables Eric Bashta / Jerry Osterloh – Riverside County (CA) Sheriff’s Department Aviation Unit Captain “Gus” Crawford Memorial Aircrew of the Year Award
Mike Broderick – TRACE Worldwide
Technical Specialist of the Year Award
Sr. Corporal Jennifer Potocki – Delaware State Police Aviation Section
Tactical Flight Officer of the Year Award
Special Agent/Pilot Glenn Wagner – Federal Bureau of Investigation Aviation Program
Fixed-Wing Operator of the Year Award
Ontario Provincial Police UAS Program – Canada
Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Award.