The Sumter County Sheriff's Office Aviation Unit consists of one Army OH-58C helicopter received by the Sheriff through the Marion County Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Army Surplus Re-utilization Program. The aircraft was received in airworthy condition with histories of excellent maintenance. A small administrative fee of $200.00 was expended by the Sheriffs Office. This type of aircraft if purchased new would cost approximately $900,000.
Obtaining the helicopter through the military has also qualified the Sheriff's Office to enroll in the Government 1122 program. This allows the agency to purchase new aircraft parts at a considerable discount.
The helicopter operates on a "ready" basis, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Typical calls for service include overdue boaters, missing Alzheimer's patients, late or lost hikers, warrants, missing children and wanted suspects.
Each pilot is required to obtain and maintain a FAA Commercial Pilot License at their own expense. Flight Observers complete an in-house training program that includes aircraft safety, radio communications and aircraft ground handling. Each Flight Observer also completes extensive training on the use of Forward Looking Infra-Red Camera Systems.
With the assistance of the Forward Looking Infra-Red Camera and a searchlight, the aviation unit has the ability to perform and complete missions at night as well as in the daytime.
The aircraft hanger is located in Bushnell. The entire facility was paid for by seized drug money. This allows the Sheriff's Office to have a place to store aircraft and perform complete maintenance on it.