Mesa Police Helicopter Pilot Briefs Sun Lakes Aero Club

Cannon Hill, president of the Sun Lakes Aero Club (right), presents a pen to Mesa Police Department’s Air Support Unit’s Bob Buquo following Buquo’s presentation to the Aero Club gathering on April 17. (Photo by Gary Vacin)

Gary Vacin

“Pursuit is our bread and butter.”

That, in brief, is how a helicopter pilot with the Mesa Police Department Air Support Unit described his unit’s mission during a presentation to the Sun Lakes Aero Club gathering on April 17.

Bob Buquo, chief pilot for the unit, told his audience how the organization uses aircraft, mostly helicopters, in law enforcement. “Mesa police helicopters average nearly eight flight hours per day, seven days per week, and answer an average of 18 calls each day,” he said.

“Being in a helicopter is like being in a patrol car,” he said. “We fly three to five hours each night, usually at 500-feet elevation, mostly searching for suspects or missing persons. From the air, we can cover the same territory as eight officers on the ground.”

Buquo showed his audience numerous clips of actual footage of aerial motion pictures showing suspects trying to evade officers on the ground and escaping the powerful beams of light provided by high-powered searchlights.

Each year the helicopter proves to be an invaluable law enforcement tool, and its average response time to a scene is 54 seconds. The unit has assisted in recovering over $20 million in stolen property and in locating over 600 missing persons (most of whom have been lost children).

Based at Mesa’s Falcon Field Airport, the Air Support Unit consists of eight full-time helicopter pilots, seven part-time tactical flight officers (all Mesa police officers), two mechanics, and one civilian air support unit administrator.

This was the Sun Lakes Aero Club’s final gathering for the 2022-23 season. The club will resume activity with monthly events beginning in November in a new location, the Cottonwood Country Club’s lecture hall. For additional information, contact Cannon Hill at 509-539-7857 or Gary Vacin at 480-298-7017.