Burbank Police Sgt. Robert Quesada has always been fascinated with aviation and airports.
“I knew Burbank had an air support unit,” Quesada said. “I said, ‘You know, I want to fly, I would love to fly one day.’”
Quesada would get his wish — more than once.
For the third time in his 30 years with the department, Quesada has been assigned to air support.
Since Nov. 1, the former department spokesman has served as the Officer in Charge for the air support unit for Burbank and Glendale police.
Burbank and Glendale police have shared the responsibilities and cost for three helicopters since 2007.
Quesada’s new role includes scheduling and ensuring the unit has the proper equipment while taking a shift once in a while.
“I also fly to keep current, a couple of times a month,” he said.
About 18 years into his career, in 1992, there was an opening in air support.
“I didn’t get sick when I was flying — that’s a biggie,” Quesada said. “Once I was proficient, I could be [what’s called] an observer, talk on the radio and handle equipment. Multitask. Then there was training.”
Ground school, flight training and licensing requirements were also part of his new position.
An observer — the officer in the helicopter with the pilot — listens to five different police radios at once, Quesada said. Duties also include talking to units on the ground and ensuring the right location has been placed on a digital mapping screen that helps guide the pilot in the right direction.
In 2002, Quesada would return to air support, this time as a sergeant.
Five years later, Quesada would be assigned to patrol and in 2009 serve as press information officer.
Then the Glendale officer who served as supervisor of the air support unit was promoted, and Quesada said he was able to get in again.
“My license was still current,” he said, adding that he needed to make sure he could still do one of the most important things — start a helicopter’s engine.
“You don’t want to burn the engine, that’s an expensive piece of equipment, it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said.