Thirsty V8's that police agencies many time resort to are fuel thirsty. A typical Ford Crown Vic police edition nets a measly 16mpg combined. Now imagine state police and other agencies using something even more inefficient- aircraft- to net speeders. Well that may finally be coming to an end.
As the AP reports, agencies are somehow finally figuring out that maintaining, fueling, and piloting aircraft is just too darn expensive for the proceeds that come from writing tickets. And keep in mind, to pull a speeder over after seeing visual confirmation via aircraft, you still need a ground unit netting a combined 16mpg to finish stopping the vehicle. Not very efficient.
The California Highway Patrol still has 15 planes used to catch speeders, but spokeswoman Fran Clader said that as the department's annual air operations budget has dropped from about $12 million to $8 million, aircraft became more focused on supporting searches and pursuits.
"We still enforce speed with the fixed-wing aircraft but in a much-reduced capacity," said Fran Clader, California Highway Patrol Spokeswoman.
The AP reports that while some states have cut back on such expenses, two states still use helicopters and other aircraft frequently.
Last year, the Ohio State Highway Patrol said it issued more than 16,000 speeding tickets based on aircraft observations, down only a little from a five-year high of 18,000 written in 2009.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, the start of the busy summer travel season, the agency had 10 aircraft in the air doing traffic enforcement, according to Lt. Randy Boggs, the unit's commander.
Florida's Highway Patrol has eight aircraft and eight pilots, who issue approximately 30,000 citations per year, said the patrol's chief pilot, Capt. Matthew Walker.
He said he hadn't suffered budget cuts. Ohio tries to keep the cost of flights down by flying smaller planes and having the pilot clock drivers, rather than use a second spotter. Boggs pegged the fuel and maintenance cost of flying at $111 per hour.
The Pennsylvania State Police have continued to use aircraft to catch speeders too, issuing 560 citations last year, but now the program faces new limitations.
This year, in a cost-cutting move, the department stopped using two of the three airports where its six fixed-wing aircraft had been based. The force is also operating with just three airplane pilots, down from as many as 10 in previous years, said Sgt. Joseph Joynes, supervisor of the aviation patrol's fixed-wing unit. That means the state now has twice as many planes as people capable of flying them.
It's about time. It costs enough to fill the tank of a Crown Victoria, let's stop wasting taxpayer dollars on expensive aircraft, and use the money to dedicate to ground units or adding officers, if anything.