Air Operations

Man hanging from green helicopter rescuing person in riverThe Placer County Sheriff's Office provides air support services throughout the county. The Air Support Unit’s aircraft consists of Falcon 30 and Eagle 2. Falcon 30 is an American Eurocopter AS 350 B3 AStar, a five-seat helicopter (as configured, capable of seating six.) Powered by an 871 HP Turbomeca Arriel-2B1 turbine engine, Falcon 30’s response speed is approximately 135 miles per hour, service ceiling is 20,000 feet, range is approximately 250 miles and typical endurance can be over 3 hours.

Watch a training video on our helicopter.


Falcon 30 aircrews are highly experienced, fly with ANVIS 9 Pinnacles™ Night Vision Goggles during night operations, have:

  • External cargo
  • Long line
  • Marijuana eradication
  • Search and rescue and rescue hoist operations, day or night
  • Short haul
  • Received specialized rescue training and conduct law enforcement patrol
  • Water rescue

Positions within the unit are: Chief pilot, Line Pilot, Tactical Flight Officer (TFO), Rescue Specialist/System Operator.

System Operator

System Operator has the following duties:

  • Deploys and operates the rescue hoist cable/ hook
  • Controls flight movement by conning the pilot during hoist, long line and short haul operations
  • Responsible for safety of the Rescue Specialist, patient or other persons on the hoist cable
  • Operates as mission commander during rescue operations
  • Keeps the pilot informed of emergencies, hazards and corrective actions during rescue operations
  • Responsible for going over safety checklist before and during rescue operations
  • Able to perform all duties during the night under night vision goggles (NVGs)

Rescue Specialist

Rescue Specialist has the following duties:

  • Deploys from the helicopter via the rescue hoist
  • Initial patient / victim contact and assessment
  • Responsible for packaging or securing patient / victim in extraction harnesses or devices for hoisting
  • Relays information from the ground back to aircrew
  • Specialized training in swiftwater rescue, high angle rescue and rescue diving
  • Cross trained as a Systems Operator

Falcon 30

Falcon 30 is equipped with a modern avionics package: 

  • Glass cockpit
  • GPS moving map systems
  • High definition day surveillance camera
  • Multi-channel communications systems (which are capable of communications on all allied agencies radio systems throughout and surrounding Placer County)
  • Night infrared imaging camera and a high-powered spotlight
  • Public address system
  • Satellite phone

Falcon 30’s rescue hoist can lift a 500 pound load and has 164 feet of cable. Falcon 30 can also sling load up to 1660 pounds of cargo.

Falcon 30 is named after Sacramento Police Officer Bill Bean, a former Placer County deputy sheriff. Bill was killed in the line of duty on February 9, 1999, in a Sacramento shooting. Bill was a star football player for the Colfax Falcons and grew up in Placer County. His jersey number was 30. Bill was an inspiration to all who knew him.

Falcon 30’s FAA tail number (N911WL) is also very significant. 911 is in tribute to the lives lost on September 11, 2001. W honors Deputy Paul ‘Woody’ Woodruff, the first Placer County Sheriff’s Office helicopter pilot and one of the original members and initial Chief Pilot of the helicopter program. Woody was killed in a civilian helicopter training accident on April 10, 2003. L is in memory of Chief Warrant Officer-Five Arthur ‘Art’ Laguna, who also flew as a volunteer pilot for Placer County. While flying security protection for U.S. diplomats in Iraq, Art was killed when his helicopter was shot down on January 27, 2007. Woody and Art both contributed immeasurably to the Placer County Air Support Unit and will never be forgotten.


Falcon 30's primary purpose is to provide air support and backup for the deputies on the ground, hence the motto, “Protection from Above.” This is accomplished through responding to backup deputies, providing

  • Aerial surveillance for deputies
  • Assistance in narcotics operations including marijuana eradication and other emergency missions
  • Crime scene photography or video
  • Crime suppression
  • Hoist rescue operations
  • Homeland security missions
  • Photo, video and infrared surveillance
  • Routine patrol
  • Search and rescue missions
  • Sling load cargo operations

Eagle 2

Eagle 2 is our fixed wing partner in the Air Support Unit. Eagle 2 is a Piper Navajo twin, capable of long distance, high-speed travel. The primary mission of Eagle 2 is the transportation of prisoners, department administration and other county personnel within California and the western states. Eagle 2 has a modernized avionics glass cockpit and has provided reliable service to our agency for well over two decades.