Smith Co. unveils new ultra-light aircraft - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Smith Co. unveils new ultra-light aircraft

SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - The Smith County Sheriff's Office has a new tool to help enforce the law.

In fact, they have been using their new aircraft for the last six months.

But on Thursday, they rolled it out and showed it off.

It has already helped law enforcement catch a sex offender and a burglar.

Combine a go-kart- like contraption with an airplane engine and parachute, and you get the "Powered Parachute."

You may think it looks a little funny...but the plane is very sophisticated.

"It's much like an aircraft. It's got the digital cockpit, the digital readouts for your engine instruments, engine temperature, air speed, altitude from the ground, it's got a transponder so you can communicate with air traffic control and they can track you on the radar," explained Pilot Joe Rasco.

Sheriff JB Smith says, "We can use it to seek out Alzheimer's patients. We've used it to find drowning victims because you can cruise very slowly over the lake and over the woods looking for victims."

Or suspects on the loose. They can also fly over people's property to see if any stolen goods are outside, giving authorities probable cause to obtain a search warrant.

Sheriff Smith says the best part was the cost.

"It cost the taxpayers of Smith County nothing. It was gotten through a grant through the Sheriff's Association of Texas," Sheriff Smith explained.

The pilot, Joe Rasco, who has flown for 26 years, says it's like riding a bike.

It has everything a regular plane has except here you're not inside a cockpit

The Powered Parachute can go as high as 10,000 feet in the air.

Sheriff Smith says all law enforcement agencies in East Texas will be able to use the plane to assist them in cases.

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