Chatham County chopper controls more than just mosquito’s

SAVANNAH, Ga. – From putting out fires to helping out the SWAT team Chatham County is putting your tax dollars to use with its three helicopters.

A decision made to help the people of Chatham and other surrounding counties.

“We can scout vehicles,” Scott Yackel, the Chatham County Chief Pilot, said. “We can monitor vehicles so that we’re not doing pursuits. We can actually manage the operation so that we can get the person, the subject, apprehended, but not chasin them through town.”

In 2004, Chatham County went from mosquito control to airborne law enforcement and using its choppers for more than one use.

“The county manager at the time and the current manager and our commission was very open to finding ways to better serve our citizens,” Yackel said.

So they decided to use those tax dollars for other uses for missions like putting out the fire on Tybee Island in April.

“I can carry a bambi bucket underneath me,” Yackel said. “There’s plenty of water around Savannah, we can dip water and drop water on fires. It’s a very quick and efficient way to get water on a fire that sometimes a truck may not be able to get to.”

They also used the chopper to search for a missing person Thursday.

“We can also search for individuals where whether they’re a missing person or it’s a subject they want to talk to,” Yackel said.

They even assist police like they did a year ago when a deputy was shot in Pooler. They used a camera hooked up to the chopper to help give officers a visual of what was going on.

“We were able to down link that video to the command and control center so that every one of the staff could see exactly what was going on real time,” Yackel said.

They also work with the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office on project life saver.

“Children that are autistic that tend to run or Alzheimer’s patients,” Yackel said. “We can launch and we have a receiver that can pick up their signal and we can direct sheriff deputies to that scene. Every helicopter is wired identical, so we can use anyone of the three helicopters for any of these missions.”

Yackle has been flying for Chatham County since 1998. He added that they also assist surrounding counties whenever they’re in need of a birds eye view.

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