The first Florida Highway Patrol aircraft was authorized to be purchased in 1959 by the Florida State Cabinet. The Patrol currently has 12 fixed wing aircraft based throughout the state. The current flight section fleet of aircraft includes Cessna 172 and 182 aircraft assigned to each of the Patrol’s ten field troops, one aircraft used as a spare, and one Piper Panther Navajo Aircraft based in Tallahassee, Florida's State Capitol. The aircraft are used in a wide variety of missions and piloted by a Flight Sergeant who is assigned permanently to the aircraft and to an FHP field troop.
Missions flown daily by the aircraft include traffic enforcement, routine patrol of interstates for disabled vehicles, crashes and any crimes spotted by the pilot, as well as marijuana eradication, Lo-Jack stolen vehicle recovery, search and rescue, and surveillance flights.
Traffic enforcement details are set up daily by the Flight Sergeant in areas of traffic problems in an attempt to reduce traffic crashes and subsequent deaths and injuries as a result of those crashes. A location for an aircraft traffic enforcement assignment is set up by utilizing ground troopers at a location selected and prepared by the pilot or observer. The pilot or flight observer will select an area on the roadway and measure a zone one quarter mile (1320 feet) in distance from one permanent line to a second line that crosses both lanes of traffic. The area is personally measured by the pilot or observer. The pilot or observer will often set up a number of the sections of lines in one area. The pilot will then fly above these areas at altitudes of 1,500 to 2,000 feet watching for speeding violators approaching the lines. Prior to the offender passing the first line, one of two calibrated stop watches are started and then stopped after the violator passes over the second line. The pilot or observer then notifies the trooper on the ground of the vehicle description, average speed over the quarter mile distance, and current time. The pilot
or observer maintains visual contact of the offender until the ground trooper pulls the correct vehicle over onto the side of the road. The pilot or observer then notifies the trooper that they have the correct vehicle and then records additional notes concerning the stop.
Patrol pilots are available 24 hours a day for patrol assignments as well as being available to assist other law enforcement agencies. Patrol pilots are often called upon to assist in special enforcement details and other assignments throughout the state.