On Aug. 24, David Williams, of the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department traveled to Flight USA headquarters in Woodstock, Conn., to pick up the department’s new CTLE. He and Lt. Marsh Carter accepted the keys and flew the CTLE back to California.
“The Tulare County Sheriff’s Department will be the first agency in the U.S. to put a Light-Sport Aircraft into full time service in support of patrol, just as many agencies do with a helicopter,” observed Williams. “Flight Design was selected not only for its commitment to provide a low-cost, turn-key law enforcement aviation platform, but also based on overall safety in design, from benign stall characteristics to the ballistic parachute system. Safety for our officers and our residents is always our number one priority.”
According to David Williams, “The Flight Design CTLE … can do much of what the department’s existing plane, a 1973 Cessna Skymaster, can do with lower fuel and maintenance costs.” CTLE can slow down to about 50 mph, allowing it to circle and conduct aerial searches for suspects on the ground. “You can make the same sort of orbit as a helicopter without any problem at all,” Williams, a pilot, noted. Pilots of patrol aircraft do not have to be police officers, however, most are, said Williams. “It is easier to train existing personnel since the CTLE is a Light-Sport Aircraft.”
Helicopters or larger general aviation aircraft have long been used for law enforcement or surveillance work. Given the much higher operating costs of those aircraft and the fuel efficiency, long endurance plus low noise profile of LSA, these newest aircraft in the fleet were a reasonable alternative … if the right equipment could be mounted, Flight Design officials said, noting a second CTLE has been prepared to more fully unveil this use of an LSA.
“Working with Flight Design’s largest distributor, Air Time of Tulsa, Okla., Roger Crow of Echo Flight Resources installed a Cloud Cap Technology TASE 200 gimbal camera unit on the CTLS’ right wing,” said John Doman, Flight Design Director of Business Development, Global Sales & Marketing. “The interior has a special display and keyboard to control the dedicated police equipment.” Once the equipment was added, the CTLS model was dubbed CTLE, with “LE” representing Law Enforcement.
Initial flight testing proved the CTLS handled the additional gear without problems. “CTLE didn’t even know there was a pod hanging on its wing. With a density altitude of over 4,000 feet (temperatures above 100 degrees) the indicated airspeed was reading 117 knots,” reported Crow. Inside the aircraft, law officials employ an adjustable video display screen that can be folded to a stowed position on the pod by means of a Ram mount. The side pocket mounted to the right side of the pod stows the “iKey” keyboard used to operate the on-board computer/processor and video recorder.
Police cruisers can cost a sheriff’s department $60,000 and typically last three years. Even after adding high-tech surveillance equipment, a $250,000 Flight Design CTLE should serve more than 12 years. “Flight Design now has a specially prepared law enforcement aircraft with specific camera mounting hard points, an extra alternator, and other extras like high intensity lights and police radios while still meeting an aggressive price point,” stated John Gilmore, National Sales Manager for Flight Design USA.
Flight Design is a 24-year-old manufacturer based in Germany. The company remains the worldwide LSA market leader thanks to its CT series of aircraft. More than 1,700 of these aircraft are flying in 39 countries. One of the first aircraft certified under ASTM International standards in 2005, the CT (“composite technology”) remains the top-selling LSA in America through six consecutive years. Flight Design sold the first LSA to India and was the first LSA to earn Chinese Type Design Approval. Earlier this year, the German company unveiled its C4 four seat aircraft based on the CT technology.