The Federal Bureau of Investigations operates the a Surveillance and Aviation Section which manages a wide variety of manned and unmanned aircraft that conduct and support FBI operations, but the Critical Incident Response Group—a major division within the Bureau—operates its own Tactical Aviation Unit. The Tactical Aviation Unit is comprised primarily of helicopters which are used to deliver SWAT and the elite Hostage Rescue Teams to crisis incidents within the United States. These aviation units also operate several fixed-wing aircraft that provide global mission capability.
FBI Tactical Aviation Pilot Job Description
Within the Tactical Aviation Unit is the Tactical Helicopter Unit (THU), which is tasked to the HRT. The THU flies a fleet of tactical transport helicopters including at least 8 UH-60 Black Hawks, as well as some McDonnell Douglas 530 Little Bird light helicopters. The helicopter pilots assigned to the HRT groups are responsible for maintaining optimal mission performance, which requires daily training flights.
FBI pilot jobs also involve providing air support for operations during vehicle and ship interdictions, high-risk arrests, and medical evacuations. The Tactical Aviation Unit may also operate a variety of light aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles that provide situational intelligence of a crisis. Pilots who provide surveillance and reconnaissance functions are expected to train regularly in a variety of environmental and weather conditions.
Tactical Aviation jobs for pilots and officers in the FBI involve performing the following duties:
- Fly a helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft through extreme weather and hostile combat conditions
- Deliver tactical operatives to buildings, ships, or other locations
- Maintain the highest aircraft piloting skills
- Conduct training drills with tactical personnel on a daily or periodic basis
- Maintain situational awareness to determine when deployment and extraction are viable or necessary
- Train and instruct new pilots on the operation of FBI proprietary helicopters, UAVs, and airplanes
- Manage the repair and maintenance of aircraft to ensure mission readiness
- Communicate with tactical commanders to provide support as needed throughout operations
FBI Tactical Aviation Pilot Salary
All FBI field personnel including Tactical Aviation Unit operatives begin their careers with at least a GS-10 pay grade. This may be adjusted for Aviation officers who enter the Bureau with a relatively high military rank or considerable experience in commercial aviation. Those aviation officers who are assigned to Hostage Rescue teams immediately receive a GS-14 or GS-15 pay rating, due to that unit’s status as supervisors. In 2012, the salary ranges for these pay grades were as follows:
In addition to the base salary, Tactical Aviation Unit personnel also receive bonuses of 12.5 to 28.7 percent of salary for cost of living adjustments. All Special Agents and field operatives receive Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime (AUO) pay, which is an additional 25 percent of base salary, to compensate for extended hours and continuous availability. FBI field operatives are also granted the extremely generous benefits plan that all federal law enforcement officers receive; this program includes health insurance, Thrift Savings Plan, life insurance, paid holidays, personal leave days, and full retirement after 20 to 25 years.