John Cooper, the longest-serving pilot and safety and training officer for the Columbus Division of Police in Columbus, Ohio, has received the Helicopter Association International 2021 Law Enforcement Award.
Sponsored by MD Helicopters, the award goes to an individual who "has contributed to the promotion and advancement of helicopters in support of law enforcement activities.”
Cooper, who has flown more than 5,900 hours in helicopters, has worked with the Columbus police unit for 30 years and is the first and only African American FAA helicopter designated pilot examiner in Ohio, which HAI notes is the home of aviation.
He earned his private pilot single-engine land rating as a teenager, but, hoping to move into helicopters, saved money from a paper route and a second job helping scrap army surplus helicopters for a helicopter operator in Maryland to begin helicopter training. Learning in an Enstrom, he achieved his rating in the early 1980s.
The Columbus police hired Cooper in 1988 and he served as a street officer until he joined the aviation unit in 1991. He became the unit’s safety and training officer in 1996 and since established the first accredited safety management system for an airborne law enforcement unit in the U.S. He also helped the police department become the first in the U.S. to achieve Public Safety Aviation Accreditation Commission accreditation.
The Columbus Police Division employs 21 pilots who fly the unit’s Bell 407GXi and four MD 530F helicopters.
Additionally responsible for training, Cooper applied for a grant and added a helicopter aviation training device to the unit’s equipment to train for inadvertent entry into instrument metrological conditions (IIMC), as well as on decision models based on realistic scenarios. He also invites local air traffic controllers to participate in instrument and IIMC training.