High-flying help: South Dakota’s only law enforcement plane gives officers an edge
ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. — The only law enforcement aircraft in the State of South Dakota was also on display at the 2022 Ellsworth Air and Space Show.
South Dakota Highway Patrol’s Cessna T-206 covers different law enforcement calls to support public safety across the state. The plane responds to anything from traffic enforcement to high-speed pursuits.
Flying about 420 hours a year, the Cessna’s two person crew consists of a pilot and a tactical flight officer working together to assist officers on the ground.
“We basically are trying to work a little bit smarter and put officers in positions where they can prevent things from happening that we don’t want to happen,” says Sgt. Sarah Schumacher, who pilots the plane.
Schumacher says Highway Patrol acquired the plane in 2007, and in 2014, it was fashioned with it’s high-tech camera, which is operated by the tactical flight officer from the back seat.
The “forward-looking infrared” – or “flir” – camera detects heat signature, and is used when searching for missing people or suspects who’ve fled a scene on foot.
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