Reporting Mike Schuh
QUEEN ANNE’S COUNTY, Md. (WJZ)— During these tight times, politicians are reluctant to add services that increase their budgets.
But as Mike Schuh reports, a sheriff on the Eastern Shore is flying high, nearly for free.
The city, county, and state all fly them. But police choppers are not cheap.
It’s “traditionally very expensive to get aviation in law enforcement,” said Gary Hoffmann.
Hoffmann is the sheriff of Queen Anne’s County. With miles of inaccessible shoreline, a deputy in the air would be welcome.
“To actually initiate a ground search which is very labor intensive,” Hoffmann said.
But he knows, there’s no way voters there would accept the cost of a chopper. So the Feds opened the door to a new way of flying. It’s like a chopper, but it’s not.
The open cockpit, German built gyroplane is flown by Deputy Bill Schepleng.
“Being able to look at a scene, look for a person, it’s totally unrestricted in the back seat,” said Schepleng.
Top speed is 100 miles an hour. But it’s the low speed of 15 miles that makes it valuable. Though it can’t hover like a chopper, it’s not as expensive.
Rather than $500-2,500 an hour, “the operating costs are between $38 and $50 an hour,” said Schepleng.
That’s 10 to 50 times cheaper, and it’s even better for Queen Anne’s, as this flying machine is free. The Feds are paying for all the costs except for gas and the pilot.
Schepleng was already on the force.
“So being able to balance the two–fiscal responsibility with the need to provide services when needed–the public is going to ask me later, ‘Sheriff, why weren’t you prepared?’ At this point we can say we are prepared,” said Hoffmann.
Sure, nothing’s truly free, but the Feds are getting an evaluation, and the county has capability they could only dream of.
The county is also looking at using volunteer pilots to make the cost of flying that gyro even lower.
Web Extra: Gyroplane Takes To The Skies Of The Eastern Shore: