The Somerset Police Depart-ment’s fledgling aviation program is about to enter the next level, thanks to a test run that has been deemed a resounding success.
A number of city and county officials and community leaders gathered Tuesday evening at the Lake Cumberland Regional Airport to learn about SPD’s new aircraft, the German-made two-seat AutoGyro Calidus, and to hear about some of the services the aviation program can offer.
“We have a lot of different communities in Pulaski County ... things that law enforcement does affects all of us,” said SPD Acting Police Chief Major Doug Nelson. “If we can get things to help our neighbors with, that’s being a good neighbor that’s a good partnership.”
The Calidus, flown on Oct. 13 by SPD Chief Pilot Lt. Shannon Smith from Bay Bridge Airport in Stevensville, Maryland to Somerset, replaces another aircraft the department took on a test run between April and May of this year — with successful results.
“If you’re able to address a situation from the air, you’re going to be at a better vantage point,” said Smith, who has taken to the skies many times this past spring and summer to ensure the safety of infrastructure and to assist in a variety of calls.
Smith flew a leased Magni M24 gyroplane for the trial period, which was assigned to Somerset for the purpose of testing and evaluating its benefit to local law enforcement with cooperation from the Law Enforcement Aviation Technology program, an arm of the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice.
The aviation program is administered nationally by the Small, Rural, Tribal, Border Regional Center (SRTB-RC) through The Center for Rural Development in Somerset. The program has assigned 17 aircraft to small law enforcement agencies that might not see aviation as a viable option to their police agency.