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Aiken uses plane to help fight crime

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AIKEN — You can run, but you would have a hard time hiding from the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office’s eye in the sky.

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The Sky Arrow 600 is a grant plane that was provided through the National Institute of Justice and the Department of Justice.  Summer Moore/Staff
Summer Moore/Staff
The Sky Arrow 600 is a grant plane that was provided through the National Institute of Justice and the Department of Justice.

Those on the ground probably don’t notice the Sky Arrow 600 light sport aircraft above, but it’s up there.

“It makes the community feel a little more secure,” Capt. Troy Elwell said.

From the sky, the deputies are able to see miles at a time. They usually fly around 1,500 feet, a height at which cars, houses and even people are visible.

If they are called on for stealth missions, said Staff Sgt. Larry L. Schrade, one of the plane’s two pilots, it hovers higher – about 3,000 feet. From there, it is nearly invisible to the naked eye from the ground and impossible to hear.

The plane has been used for such things as car chases and marijuana eradication.

“The plane takes the liability off of a pursuit,” Elwell said. “In 30 to 45 minutes, we can be anywhere in the county.”

The plane can track from the sky and see large distances ahead of the car being chased. This way, the deputies on the ground don’t have to engage in high-speed chase and can instead cut the suspects off where the plane sees them heading.

The aircraft is a grant plane that was provided through the National Institute of Justice and the Department of Justice. It is one of several types of aircraft provided to law enforcement agencies throughout the country, according to a news release.

When Aiken got the aircraft in 2007, it was shared by Aiken, Richmond and Columbia counties and hangared at Augusta’s Daniel Field. Because of budget restrictions, Columbia and Richmond counties have backed out, so now the plane is at Aiken Municipal Airport, where they are not charged hanger fees. The plane will still cover Richmond, Edgefield and Columbia counties if asked.

The plane usually flies two to four times a week for regular road patrol, but can be called up at any time.

A few months ago, Schrade and fellow pilot Sgt. Kris Evenson got strong enough radios that they can talk with deputies on the ground, which speeds up communication.

For example, on Sept. 28, the plane helped catch a car theft suspect who had eluded road deputies. The airplane was able to identify the missing vehicle from the sky and send officers to it.

The aircraft is also useful for reconnaissance and aerial photography on large undercover operations, Elwell said.

Elwell said he would like to see the plane used more often and is hoping to get another pilot at some point.

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my.voice
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my.voice 11/02/11 - 11:10 am
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This is nothing. Augusta has

This is nothing. Augusta has Fred Russell who perches atop the Marble Palace, effectually doing the same thing.

commonsense-is-endangere
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commonsense-is-endangere 11/03/11 - 03:38 pm
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A sure sign of money to burn.

A sure sign of money to burn.

Riverman1
83421
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Riverman1 11/04/11 - 06:15 am
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That thing buzzed me one day

That thing buzzed me one day out near my farm in Aiken County near 302. Came out of nowhere and went right over my truck very, very low. Scared the heck out of me. I've got to wonder about the cost, too, especially considering Columbia and Richmond counties backed off of it due to money.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 11/04/11 - 06:21 am
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"From the sky, the deputies

"From the sky, the deputies are able to see miles at a time. They usually fly around 1,500 feet, a height at which cars, houses and even people are visible."

Guess our Columbia County nude sun bathers that the animal control guy captured wouldn't have a chance at staying private, even on their own property.

Riverman1
83421
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Riverman1 11/04/11 - 06:23 am
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Guess the Columbia County

Guess the Columbia County sunbathers the animal control guy captured wouldn't have a chance....even on their own property.

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