By Jessa Lewis
SEVIERVILLE (WATE) – Sevier County public safety agencies now have a helicopter to use for law enforcement missions.
Officials are contracting with a private company, Public Safety Aviation (PSA), to provide a helicopter and pilot.
“The crew on staff will be kind of a composite crew. Dwight and I will be the pilots. The person that sits next to us will be the tactical flight observer that’s provided by the agencies that we work with,” explained PSA founder Jim Hickman.
The county won’t have to pay for maintenance and there will be no immediate cost to taxpayers.
“To buy a helicopter would be, the least expensive one you could buy would be half a million dollars and then the upkeep on that would be tremendous,” said Cpt. Jeff McCarter of the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office.
Public Safety Aviation is now on call through dispatch for SCSO and other public safety agencies in the county.
The company gets paid only when they go out on assignment. The sheriff’s office says that won’t be all the time.
“We use it, again, as needed. There will be some times when the helicopter is airborne just for omnipresence in the county, but on an as-needed basis at this point,” explained Cpt. McCarter.
A pilot and officer in a helicopter could also mean safer roads in Sevier County.
“Once a helicopter made contact with a fleeing vehicle, the ground units can pull off,” Cpt. McCarter added. “You would reduce the liability of crashes involving police cars and innocent citizens that are on the roadway.”
Helicopters can also decrease response times because they move faster and can completely avoid traffic.