October 6, 2020 –
The Aviation Unit at the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office is impressive, and multi-faceted. Not only does the team provide professional law enforcement services from above, fire suppression within Charlotte County, they also provide Charlotte County with mosquito control and life-saving rescue techniques. The Aviation unit provides aid to surrounding counties that do not possess aerial assets with most requests in the form of aerial firefighting. Our team is uniquely equipped with a UH-1 Huey fitted with a 350-gallon fire tank, along with a 144-gallon Bambi Bucket for the AStars (AS350s).
The team of 5, led by Chief Warrant Officer Shane Engelauf is staffed with pilots, Tactical Flight Officers, and mechanics. With numerous years of experience between them, the team is well-known for running a successful and efficient operation.
In April, the team assisted Lee County Fire Department battle a fire that spread across 15 acres. The flames destroyed more than 3,500 rental cars in the rental car overflow area of Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW). The unit dropped over 11,000 gallons of water on the flames. This disastrous blaze captured the nations attention, landing our Aviation Unit a feature in one of the top aviation magazines in the industry.
The full article can be viewed here.
The newest addition to the already highly-developed unit, was the implementation of life-saving rescue techniques and equipment. The equipment, which was provided through a Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation grant back in 2019, gave the crew the opportunity to train and excel in Short Haul water and land rescue.
In September of 2020, the Aviation Unit began their training with short haul extractions via long line, perfecting their craft and providing yet another indispensable service to their community.
So who makes up the team?
The Aviation Unit is led by Shane, an 8-year veteran of the U.S. Army. He has completed deployments to Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) as an OH-58D scout pilot/instructor. After leaving active service, he was a primary flight instructor at Ft. Rucker, the home of Army Aviation. Shane then moved to the U.S. State Department where he served as a UH-1HII air mission commander for the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Bureau. He then transitioned to the counter narcotics global support team where he served as an MI-17 instructor pilot. He also served as a lead pilot for an air ambulance company in New Mexico before becoming the chief pilot at the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, where he continues to proudly serve his community.
Warrant Officer 1 Jon Bautista LEO Pilot
Jon serves as an essential member of the Aviation Division. Primary roles include Law Enforcement pilot duties, search and rescue, short haul extractions via long line, Mosquito Abetment and fire suppression. He joined the Marine Corps in 1998 and has dedicated his adult life to pursuing all things helicopters. He served as a helicopter crew chief with the Marines for 5 years. From the Marines he went on to earn his Airframes & Power Plants certifications as a mechanic, he utilized the GI Bill to earn his Private, Commercial and instrument Rotorcraft ratings in California 2005.
Jon is a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and holds a B.S. in Professional Aeronautics with Minors in Aviation Safety and Management. As a pilot he has worked throughout the US and overseas supporting helicopter operations to include, aerial applications, electronic news gathering, Part 135 transports, gas and oil Gulf of Mexico, contractor in West Africa, and mosquito abatement.
He takes pride in his work and looks forward to serving and protecting the community in a variety of roles the Sheriffs Office and our partnerships fulfill.
Lead Mechanic and Crew Chief Dan Ijpkemeule
Ijpkemeule’s responsible for the maintenance, repairs and continued airworthiness of 2 UH1 helicopters and 2 AStar helicopters; as well as crew chief in the aircraft during certain missions. He is also a fixed wing multi engine pilot. Ijpkemeule’s aviation career started 20 years ago as a mechanic, working his way up to manage a large FAA Avionics Repairstation, to finally working for the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, fulfilling his goal of working on helicopters.
Over the years Ijpkemeule has worked on a wide variety of small aircraft, large corporate jets, turbo props and helicopters, giving him a broad experience that brings another level of expertise to the unit.
Ijpkemeule is proud to serve the community and takes pride in keeping aircraft safe and airworthy.
Air Support Mechanic and Crew Chief Nathan Huck
Huck started is journey in aviation while still in high school with a dual enrollment program at the Charlotte Technical College. After graduating high school, Huck began working for a local avionics shop completing fabrication, wiring, and troubleshooting on general aviation aircraft including warbirds and helicopters. After leaving the avionics shop, Huck went to work for an aircraft maintenance facility in central Florida specializing in float planes and bush aircraft.
Huck has been with CCSO as a mechanic and crew chief for a year where he maintains two Astar’s and two Huey’s providing multiple services to the citizens of Charlotte County.
Deputy Tactical Flight Officer Joseph Mills
As a TFO, Mills is responsible for operating technical equipment such as the Forward-looking infrared camera(FLIR), spotlight, and mapping systems. As a crewmember, he assists the pilot with flight operations and emergency procedures. Mills is also helicopter long-line rescue certified, capable of executing rescues of injured or stranded subjects on land or the water.
Mills graduated from Port Charlotte High School and began working for the Englewood Fire Department in 2002. Mill is certified in Technical Rescue, Swift Water Rescue, EMT-B, with an additional certification in Confined Space. Mills is currently assigned to the Aviation Unit and a member of the SWAT team.
The Aviation Division has four Tactical Flight Officer’s assigned to aviation as additional duties. These TFO’s were selected because of the experience they bring to airborne law enforcement and their specialties range from K9 to traffic to Road patrol. Corporal Lister, DFC Pool, DFC Hartmenstorfer, and DFC Shaw provide TFO operations at dedicated time slots during their normal shift. These highly skilled crewmembers provide a vital service and allow Air-1 to be in service both day and night.
Photos courtesy of David Cruz