POSTED: Thursday, October 6, 2011 - 9:09am
UPDATED: Friday, October 7, 2011 - 2:50pm
SMITH COUNTY —
A new flying machine was unveiled today by the Smith County Sheriff’s Department.
But it’s like no police vehicle you’ve ever seen.
When you think of a law enforcement aviation unit, this might not be what you think of.
But Sheriff J.B. Smith says, the new aircraft will be very versatile.
Unless it’s too windy.
When the wind started gusting this morning, the flight demonstrations came to an end for the new Sheriff’s Department Aviation Unit.
And, yeah, the phrase “aviation unit” might seem a little grandiose for the aircraft we saw today.
The unit consists of a $25,000 so-called “powered parachute” or “paraplane” might look a little…flimsy.
But Sheriff Smith says, they’ve already put it to good use.
The paraplanes have been around since the mid-1980s and typically fly at about 25-35 miles per hour.
This model carries two, which means that unlike the single seat version, you need a sport pilot certificate and a few more hours of training to become a pilot.
But the department envisions its use for high speed chases, fugitives, missing persons or just general crime surveillance.
There are only 3 departments in the country using the paraplanes for law enforcement work.
And one advantage is, it can take off from almost any kind of field.
If the wind is right.