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Up in the air|Sheriff trains on powered parachute

By By Lisa Tindell
news editor

Imagine the difficulty of finding a missing person or an escaped prisoner in one of Escambia County’s forests. Now, imagine law enforcement officers taking to the air in the search.
The Escambia County Sheriff’s Department has the means to heighten search efforts in just such cases thanks to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Escambia County Sheriff Grover Smith said the Powrachute device will become a part of the department’s equipment next week.
Smith said the equipment is coming to Escambia County at no cost and will be available for use by law enforcement for at least a year.
Smith said his presentation to other law enforcement officials in Florida recently sealed the deal with federal officials.
Craig Ewing, pilot and demonstrator for Powrachute, said the aircraft can provide crucial assistance to law enforcement agencies everywhere.
The machine, which looks like a dune buggy with an attached parachute and propeller, can fly at heights of up to 10,000 feet, Ewing said.
Chris Rutherford, an officer with Poarch Police Department, said the demonstration flight he took on the machine didn’t get quite as high as the limit.
The cost to operate the machine is minimal in comparison to a helicopter or airplane, Smith said.
Smith said the machine uses regular automobile fuel and burns one to two gallons per hour of operation. Safety is assured as well, he said.
In the near future, Smith will be making a presentation to law enforcement officials in London, England to further explain how Escambia County is unique and will benefit from such a piece of machinery.
Smith said only eight agencies in the United States currently have the Powrachute technology in place.