UK National Police Air Service pilot Capt. John Roberts has been awarded the Honourable Company of Air Pilots prestigious Johnson Memorial Trophy. The trophy recognises outstanding performance in the operation of airborne or space systems, manned or unmanned, and the list of earlier honourees reads like a who’s who of aviation since the award was first presented to Sir Francis Chichester in 1931.

The citation for Capt. Roberts award reads as follows:

John Roberts is a highly experienced Police Line Pilot who has flown in support of police operations for 22 years since leaving the Royal Navy. In 2007 the Metropolitan Police Service acquired three highly capable EC145 helicopters, equipped with state-of-the-art camera and mission systems and in 2010 the Air Support Unit was requested to assist SO15 as part of UK Maritime Counter Terrorism (MCT) preparedness. John volunteered to take on the coordination and planning for this new role and for the past 12 years has been responsible for the Police Air Support provision of helicopters to SO15 in support of MCT.

The role was initially envisaged as being one of post event evidence gathering however, John’s demonstration of the capabilities of crews and aircraft systems soon led to this expanding into an aerial surveillance role, working closely with UK Special Forces and military aviation assets.  John was instrumental in building a close working relationship with SF as well us conducting training for the police crews involved in what is a complex and highly dynamic aviation environment.

He also assisted with development of the communication infrastructure that allows images to be relayed in real time to operational control centres. John regularly represents the National Police Air Service at planning events as well as flying missions during frequent MCT training exercises. He is viewed as the Police Aviation expert and has more experience in this field of operations than most, if not all, of the other attendees at the planning and training events. John has achieved this in addition to carrying out his normal duties as a Police Line Pilot and Training Captain.

His ability to plan and supervise complex operations outside of normal business led to him being approached by the MPS Chief Pilot to take on the further role of coordinating aviation support during US presidential visits. John has assisted with four POTUS visits to the UK where he has established similarly effective working relationships with the US Marine Corps and Secret Service. He has been personally commended by the USMC Colonel responsible for Marine 1 (the presidential helicopter) for his expertise and assistance in ensuring the successful movement by helicopter of POTUS during four visits. John’s ability to not only fly challenging missions in support of MCT and US presidential visits but to also coordinate with multiple agencies has been commented on by Downing Street aides.

John works tirelessly to provide the best possible support and has even taken the time to visit US colleagues during his leave periods. John’s hard work and dedication over the last 12 years have made an invaluable contribution to UK security operations. Over and above his work as a Police Air Support pilot and for his outstanding performance in the operation of airborne systems, John Roberts is awarded the Johnson Memorial Trophy.

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