ST. PAUL -- They're not often talked about, but the Minnesota State Patrol Aviation Unit has been around since the 1950s.

Used mainly to monitor traffic, the State Patrol has expanded the Aviation Unit to be available for more missions.

Searching for bad guys, vehicle pursuits, rescue mission and finding people who are lost

are some of the missions they prepare for.

Lt. Matt Nelson has been flying helicopter's with the State Patrol for thirteen years. He says that many people forget about their services.

"A lot of people forget the fact that they have a tool that can transport someone very easily from a remote area."

Currently the State Patrol has three helicopter's, and two planes,  which they fly on an everyday basis. However, most of their flight work happens over night.

"A lot of our flying is done from ten at night until two in the morning, looking for that high pursuit time."

When not flying, the pilots spend their day planning flights, checking weather patterns, and keeping up with their training.

"We put in about 1500 hours of flight time." says Lt. Nelson. "When we are not flying we need to keep up with our police training."

Lt. Nelson has been on both sides of the Minnesota State Patrol and just like every pilot, he says flying is the best part.

"I just really enjoy being in the air. There is just a peaceful feeling any pilot gets.


Lt. Matt Nelson prepares the helicopter before flight. (Photo: Alex Svejkovsky, WJON News)

“Everyday Heroes” is a weekly WJON News feature spotlighting those who put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe.