ESCO seeking new aircraft

Published 11:31 am Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Escambia County Sheriff’s Department may increase their search and investigation capabilities from the air soon.
Sheriff Grover Smith said plans to add a new aircraft to the equipment owned by the Department is in the hands of the Washington, D.C., officials.
“I’ll be heading to Washington, D.C., next week to make a presentation on how we could best utilize this kind of equipment,” Smith said. “I feel really good about our chances to win the grant that will allow us to add the equipment.”
The equipment being sought is a gyrocopter, which, Smith says, will be able to perform like a helicopter without the large price tag or operating expenses.
“This gyrocopter will do anything that a helicopter can do,” Smith said. “Instead of a $3 million price tag and a cost of about $1,500 an hour to operate, this aircraft has a price tag of about $100,000 and only costs about $50 to operate.”
Smith said the addition of the equipment will be beneficial for the Escambia County Department, but would also be available to assist other departments in the area.
“We already own the Powachute and have demonstrated how beneficial that has been for our Department and allowing us to help others,” Smith said. “We took the Powachute to North Alabama and helped search for missing people after the tornadoes ripped through the state. We were able to search a large area in a short amount of time by being in the air. We were able to do in a couple of hours what would have taken a couple of days if done from the ground.”
Smith said the Department has also assisted prison dog tracking teams throughout the region since acquiring the Powachute.
“We have helped countless times in assisting dog teams from area prisons,” Smith said. “We’ve been to Okaloosa County and in Talladega with the police department there. This equipment has been used all over the state.”
Smith said the proven record of using current equipment should be a boost in the attempt at the equipment grant being sought by the Department.
“We’ve got a proven record that we put all of our equipment to good use,” Smith said. “I feel really good about our chances to win this grant. We’ve done our homework and have letters of support from agencies where we’ve used the equipment. With all that we’ve done, I think we’re in good shape.”
Smith said the gyrocopter will be less prohibitive than the Powachute because of construction.
“The gyrocopter has a cockpit that is mostly closed,” Smith said. “This piece of equipment will be less prohibitive than the Powachute which can’t be flown in winds of 25 mph or more. This equipment can be flown in 20 mph winds or 90 mph winds. It’s far less prohibitive and has a good record for safety and efficiency.”
Smith said the meeting with officials is set for mid-week in Washington, D.C. and hopes to have a decision on the day of his presentation.
“I hope to know something when I leave Washington,” Smith said. “I feel good about our chances to add this equipment to the Department.”

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