Dozens of law enforcement helicopters converged on the Rose Bowl Stadium on Wednesday for an emergency preparedness fly-in training exercise.
The exercise, which was hosted by the Pasadena Police Department, involved helicopters from agencies as far away as San Diego, Ventura, and Riverside.
The Rose Bowl is designated as a staging area for a large disaster or mass casualty situation. Coordinated landing and takeoff procedures were a key component of the annual disaster response exercise and fly-in.
The goal of the exercise was to test the agencies’ ability to coordinate their response to a large-scale disaster.
The helicopters flew in approaching from the San Gabriel Mountains to the north directly over the Rose Bowl, then hovered and parked in rows, filling the field south of the stadium.
Pasadena Police Department’s Air Operations Unit has been conducting this exercise for over 30 years. The unit’s ranking officer, Lt. Bradley May, said that the exercise is important because it allows the agencies to practice working together in a real-world situation.
The annual training also gives diverse agencies the opportunity to compare protocols.
May, said the emergency preparedness exercise is in preparation for any major catastrophe, whether it be earthquakes or something man-made.
The training exercise also served as specialized training for Pasadena’s Air Operations Unit, which essentially acts as the runway tower for the helicopters during the takeoff and landings, said May.
“There are different staging locations within the area where the stage, helicopters as they came in,” said May,” and then we are working as an air traffic controller, like at an airport, talking them all in and moving them like puzzle pieces, and then getting them down and landing them one at a time. That’s the real training.”
May also noted the work of their key person within Pasadena’s Air Operations section, senior pilot Steve Thurston.
“He’s run this program and really has done this for several years. He really coordinates the entire event, including sending out pilot’s briefs and all those sorts of things that go out ahead of time to make sure everybody knows how to safely get here.”
May also explained that the exercise was underwritten by a number of helicopter-related vendors.
“We have different vendors of equipment that we use in the helicopters,” said May, “and those vendors are the ones that come out and actually underwrite and sponsor the event. It’s not paid for by the City. The vendors actually pay for the event.”
The operation also typically serves as one element of the multi-agency active shooter training exercise that routinely takes place in May inside the Rose Bowl stadium.