‘Sheriff One’ takes off

“Sheriff One” has begun flying missions for the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department in California. “Sheriff One” is the call sign used by the new Flight Design CTLE operated by the sheriff’s department.

Captain David Williams is the spark plug behind the county’s acquisition of the Flight Design Light-Sport Aircraft to be used for law enforcement work. Though he is now retired from active duty, Williams was given Reserve Sergeant status so that he can continue to play an active role in maintaining public safety in the area.

“[CTLE] will do about 95% of what a helicopter can do,” short of landing and taking off at a single point, Williams told those attending the unveiling. He added that the CTLE cameras can remain focused on a single object (such as a car, a parking lot or a house) while the plane circles. A spotlight with a mile-long range and a video screen lets the tactical flight officer in the right seat view what the camera sees.

Tulare County Sheriff Bill Wittman said one of the planned uses of the plane will be to search for suspected criminals taking apart farm machinery to steal copper wiring to sell it, as well as thieves taking crops, livestock and heavy equipment. Wittman was pleased to show the plane to about 40 interested persons who attended the ceremony.

“I’m absolutely thrilled we’re going to have this resource in Tulare County,” said Visalia Police Chief Coleen Mestas as reported by the Visalia Times.

Tulare CTLE (Photo by Ron Holman for Visalia Times)

Between fuel, insurance, maintenance and renting hangar space at the Visalia airport, Sheriff One will cost about $34 for every flight hour used — not counting the salaries of the deputies flying it — only 10% of the cost compared to $300-$400 an hour for a helicopter, Williams said. The Sheriff Department’s new LSA costs about $60,000 more than a standard Flight Design CTLS because of the high technology camera, controller and display screen additions, including a glass-panel cockpit. The CTLE also has digital recording equipment to store camera images.

Roger Crow of Echo Flight Resources is a special mission representative for the CTLE model from Flight Design. He has been active with the law enforcement community in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“I am now flying one or two sorties per week training Tulsa County deputies in the duties of a tactical flight officer (TFO),” said Crow. “The TFO is the mission commander during these flight. The duties of the TFO include being in charge of ground communications, directing the pilot to specific target areas and camera operations.”

“During a 1.5-hour sortie, CTLE burns 3.7 to 4.3 gal per hour,” added Crow. “I have experienced 3.7 hours of law enforcement patrols that burned a total of 7.4 gallons of 91 octane auto fuel. Patrol speeds are 60-70 knots and orbits over target are 50-60 knots. When responding to calls, dash speed can be increased to 120 knots.”

“In November,” Crow continued, “we flew a surveillance mission over the County Courthouse in downtown Tulsa in response to the national movement of Occupy Wall Street. We were operating below the tops of the 50-story buildings, orbiting within a city block area of the Courthouse.”

Because of the CTLE flight characteristics in a law enforcement configuration (low & slow), Crow’s CTLE, which has been christened “Talking Bird,” has twice been momentarily misidentified as a helicopter by Tulsa Departure Control at the Tulsa International Airport.

“The CTLE has opened new opportunities for Flight Design USA as public-use aircraft can accomplish commercial duties different from other LSA users,” stated John Gilmore, National Sales Manager for Flight Design USA. LSA may be used for flight instruction or rental for hire but otherwise are not used in fee-generating activities.

The new model will be shown at the Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation Expo 2012 in January.

For more information: FlightDesignUSA.com

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