NCIS: Los Angeles’ action-packed stories set in Southern California require extensive use of aerial assets, and they often turn to Pursuit Aviation for help. An episode during Season 9 of the CBS drama featured a helicopter recovery operation set deep in the desert. To film this scene, the NCIS:LA team needed expert pilots, a military-style aircraft and the ability to operate away from the amenities of an airport.

How we did it

A movie ranch in nearby Acton, California proved to be an ideal stand in for the scene’s remote setting. Once Pursuit Aviation obtained the FAA permits needed to operate in the area, a Bell 212 Eagle Single helicopter – the modern-day civilian equivalent of a Huey – was secured for the tactical helicopter role.

However, operating off-airport comes with additional challenges, which our team helped to overcome. Working in desert terrain can cause brownout conditions, in which flying dust causes a loss of visibility for pilots and crew members. To alleviate this, a water truck was used to wet down the surrounding area to limit the impact of the aircraft rotors. Pursuit Aviation’s fuel truck was also brought on site to extend the helicopter’s operating time.

Once the set was prepared, getting the perfect shots required exacting coordination between the ground-based film crew and the team piloting the picture ship. Our aerial experts have extensive experience with these types of scenes, and worked in concert with the production team to get the perfect shots required for the episode's exciting apex.


125 mph Cruising speed of a Huey helicopter

19,000 ft Ceiling altitude of a Huey helicopter