Look up in the sky! It’s a bird ... it’s a plane ... it’s Sheriff Jackie Matheny!
The Warren County Sheriff’s Department has acquired a Cessna 174 airplane at no cost to the taxpayers thanks to a military surplus program. The airplane will take the place of two helicopters the sheriff’s department has owned for years but recently traded.
The aircraft are all part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 1997, which authorizes the Department of Defense to transfer excess military property to state and local law enforcement agencies.
The program allowed the sheriff’s department to obtain the two helicopters it recently traded, as well as 4-wheel drive trucks, guns and vests presently used by the sheriff and his deputies.
Sheriff Matheny said, “We had two helicopters that we acquired from surplus a while ago. They did a great job and served us well for a long time. Within the last couple of years, they started requiring more maintenance. It was going to cost $100,000 just to get one of them going again. We just don’t have that kind of money in the budget. We were able to trade the helicopters in and another county already has them. They have the means to do the required maintenance on them so they will be used there. We were able to get this plane. It will be more economical than the helicopters were. The plane has a different type of engine and will take a different type of fuel which is cheaper. It will be more cost efficient.”
Investigator Travis Thaxton has his pilot’s license and will be piloting the four-passenger aircraft.
“We have someone certified to fly airplanes. His family has their own plane. He will be our pilot,” Matheny said.
The sheriff said the plane is currently undergoing a full inspection. “I think a cable needed to be replaced and they fixed that. It will be thoroughly checked over but I think it is about ready to fly,” said Matheny.
“This is something we will use on a need basis. It will be good to have for air surveillance. If we get information about a marijuana field being grown somewhere, we can fly over it and take a look. If we get a call about a fugitive holding up somewhere remote, we can fly over and see the area before we go in,” said Matheny.
“We got this plane through surplus which means no tax money was used. The money from our drug fund will go toward the maintenance of the plane. That is money we get from fines and arrests. That means we will use the criminals’ own money for surveillance and to arrest them,” said Matheny.