LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - After months of speculation, Calcasieu Sheriff Tony Mancuso confirms the Sheriff's Office has purchased a plane. The Cessna 206 single engine plane was purchased through a U.S. Department of Homeland Security - Port Security Grant. The plane is worth $520,000, but the Sheriff's Office paid $130,000 (25% match).
Mancuso said the plane will be used for search and rescue, drug and narcotics investigations and pursuits. The 6 seater plane will have 3 seats taken out to accommodate equipment which includes: FLIR (Forward Looking Infa-Red) system, installation, law enforcement radio installation - $80,000 (25% match) for $321,000.
"Not one piece of equipment that we acquire is inexpensive, but every piece of equipment we buys is for the safety for our community," said Mancuso.
"This plane will be used for search and rescue missions, drug/narcotics investigation, any kind of chase or pursuit - we'll be able to track the person or driver from the air -- both day and night," explained Mancuso. "But let me be clear - this plane will not be used to take me or any other person on business trips or to conferences or for any other nonsense like that."
When it comes to search and rescues Mancuso said it will cut down on the time it takes to locate a person - something the sheriff says you can't put a price on. "I can assure you that if a mom or dad, a brother or a sister, a grandmother or grandfather gets lost on one of our waterways or in our woods - to that family they could care less if I spent 10-million dollars on a plane," said Mancuso.
In his outline Mancuso also explained the plane will be available to help other law enforcement agencies in Calcasieu Parish. Mancuso said under the terms of the grant, the plane is technically a "regional plane" and will also be used to assist neighboring parishes if needed.
The plane will be flown by a team of 12 volunteer pilots who are experienced and certified at no cost to tax payers. The Sheriff says they've budgeted $50,000 per year for operation and maintenance and the plane will be kept at the Lake Charles Regional Airport.
The plane is expected to arrive in early 2011.
To watch the CPSO's press conference in its entirety, click here.