An Encounter with the Sheriff’s Department

EAA chapter 791 today held its monthly meeting at the Pasco County (Florida) Sheriff’s helicopter hangar.  We had a wonderful two hour session touring the hangar and the adjoining parking yard for the emergency response (SWAT and other) vehicles.

Dolly Admiring a Jet Ranger Helicopter

The Department has four operational jet ranger helicopters on a staggered 100/200/300 hour maintenance schedule, plus two other JRs that are scavenged for parts.  They have one civilian mechanic who handles everything other than instrument repairs.

Yes, it was OK to climb in

All of the helicopters were military surplus and have been rebuilt, renovated, reconditioned and painted by the County.  Several were previously used by the Columbian military.

The chairs were full during the Chapter meeting and a follow on presentation by one of the officer/pilots.

We heard a story about the time this officer while on a SWAT team support flight was repeatedly hit by a red laser beam – ground patrols were all tied – he set the helicopter down in a parking lot –  ran five blocks and caught the perp.  He could identify the person as the helicopters have FLIR (infrared cameras) and the pilots wear night vision goggles.

Then we watched a video (Click to see it on YouTube) that shows the performance of the FLIR camera.  It is so sensitive that if a person spends time standing next to a wall and then moves on, the camera can read the heat that was transfered from the person to the wall.  Similarly, automobile exhausts leave a heated trail on the ground showing their direction of travel, even on hot nights.

SWAT Vehicles

Finally, we toured the emergency response vehicle parking yard.  The vehicle electrical systems are plugged in all the time.  The department also has a large command system truck that keeps its air conditioner running while stored here awaiting a call.

I was Impressed that several of the vehicles and a canine training building were donated to the Department by an individual citizen and a community leadership association.  Others were acquired from the military at nominal cost.

Today at the Airport

The Experimental Aircraft Association  Chapter 1298 held a rally for Young Eagles.  The EAA Young Eagles program offers free airplane rides to children ages 7 through 17.   For many this is their first airplane ride, particularly in two to six seat General Aviation planes. In addition to the rides the kids receive a logbook signed by their pilot, and vouchers for an online private pilot course from Sporty’s Pilot Shop.

Dolly and I worked with other members who arrived early to be part of the ground crew. We are members of three EAA chapters, two in Florida and one in Michigan.

Waiting for the visitors at the Chapter Hangar
Lynn Postal and Piper Lance N146X
Paul Bryant and the Lightning he built
Don Whiting’s Piper Lance N222PP
James Chorvat’s retractable gear Cessna Cardinal 177












Paul Bryant built his Lightning ten years ago.  N82PB is registered as an AB or Amateur Built Aircraft.  The Lightning cruises around 150 miles per hour.

I have no photo of Tom Longo’s aircraft.  He made several flights today in N137JM his Vans RV9A, another Amateur Built Aircraft.

Five pilot members had their planes ready on the ramp and taxiways outside the EAA hangar.  The pilots donate their time, aircraft and fuel to give the youngsters their first small airplane ride.

Early morning pilot Briefing

An hour before the visitors arrive the pilots hold a briefing session where they agree on flight routes and review communications and other procedures necessary for safe operations.

Chapter 1298 Hangar

While they wait for their flight the visitors are invited to look around the EAA hangar and watch a video from EAA national.  The photo on the right shows the fuselage of a Vans RV10 that is being built by one of the chapter members.

Parents closely watching their children

Many parents bring cameras to Young Eagle events to record the children’s reactions following their flight.

The Ground Crew members register the children, escort them to the aircraft and introduce them to their pilot.  The pilots spend some time giving a preflight briefing and describing what to expect on the flight.

Pilots and Ground Crew