NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — You may never have heard of or seen Erin Egan, but she is always watching you.
As CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported, the NYPD detective was inspired by her father – a private pilot – and she for more than a decade she has been behind the controls of a police helicopter.
Indeed, the helicopter amounts to Egan’s office.
“I love that I’m not sitting behind a desk,” she said.
Egan has always had her eye on the sky and said she was really interested in becoming an astronaut growing up. So at 16, she started flying.
“Another step that wouldn’t get me into space but would get me in the air,” Egan said.
She took an internship flying commercial planes, but realized, as she put it, “the traveling was great but it was kind of boring.”
When someone recommended the NYPD, Egan visited the department Aviation Unit and took the test. She has been with the Air-Sea Rescue Unit for 14 years now.
Egan flew CBS2’s Gainer over the Hudson River near Yonkers, where in 2006 she helped rescue two men.
“They had sent out a patrol aircraft. They couldn’t find them,” she said. “We got there and saw a head bobbing in the Hudson River about to go under in the freezing water; scooped him up.”
In 2010, while providing security for then-President Barack Obama, Egan had ditch in the water. She was praised for how she handled it, but she and the crewmembers were given time off to heal.
“Took me a little while to get back to how I felt prior to that, and I would say it still changes you forever,” Egan said.
To help get that feeling back, Egan took some vacation time and traveled to Ghana to teach other women how to fly after seeing an ad in an aviation magazine.
Back on the job today, Egan’s current patrol car, shall we say, has gotten an upgrade from years past.
“This particular NYPD helicopter has a lot of high-tech systems that help to make the job easier,” she said.
Among the features is the “night sun” – a high-powered spotlight.
“It really helps if we’re looking for somebody in a dark backyard,” she said.
And Egan is also able to scan as she flies over barges.
“We can check for any radiological material that might be on board,” she said.
Egan is one of only two female NYPD pilots, but as she puts it, “I try to look at it like I’m just one of the guys.”
And she is even training the future generation of female pilots – her toddler daughter, whom she said would she would encourage to soar to great heights too.
Egan, 41, said she will retire next year and is currently working on a book about female pilots. She encourages other young women to consider the same career path.