Sunday, August 3, 2003

Powered Parachutist offers to serve as police departments'

Of Our Palmyra Bureau

If you've seen a colorful powered parachute soaring across Lebanon County skies recently, it was Baron Tayler of Cornwall. His powered parachute is a hobby and a vehicle he would like to use as a service.

Tayler has formed Emergency Low Level Aerial Search and Surveillance, a division of the PowerChute Education Foundation, a nonprofit corporation he created. He is offering to help area police and firefighters search for lost or missing people. He would provide the service for free, although he hopes to attract private donations to defray his costs.

While no local departments have said yes to his offer, Tayler is not dissuaded.

"We're going to be used. I'm not worried about that. Unfortunately, it is going to happen," he said.

Several local police chiefs who met with Tayler said they will keep him in mind, but they haven't made any commitments.

While Tayler agrees that a helicopter is the "ultimate" search vehicle, he said the powerchute has some advantages. It flies "low and slow," about 30 mph, might be more readily available than a helicopter and is less costly to operate, he said.

Disadvantages are he can't fly in rain, fog, at night or in more than 15 mph winds; his range is limited to 2 - 2 1/2 hours; and he can't fly over heavily populated areas, he said.

Baron Tayler and his son, Zeke, come in for a landing
at an airstrip in South Annville Twp.

The powerchute consists of a motorized three-wheeled frame with a 500-square-foot parachute over it, connected at two points. Tayler's two-seater has full instrumentation, redundancy and dual controls.

He has a Global Positioning System and would like to add thermal imaging to his search tools.

Tayler, who is a Web designer, learned to fly from an instructor in Bloomsburg and earned his certification in less than a week.

"I've wanted to fly my whole life," Tayler said, but it wasn't until he almost died from an aortic aneurysm four years ago that he decided to tackle things he always wanted to do.

A year ago, after researching types of aviation, he decided on the powered parachute.

Powerchutes, he said, are the way flying was meant to be -- open, with full visibility on all sides, with freedom from a predetermined flight pattern.

Baron makes sure all the lines to the
chute are untangled before taking off.
"Safety is everything," he says.

He also likes the fact that he can take a passenger, although he is limited by FAA rules to someone taking a lesson.

Tayler would like to start E.L.L.A.S.S. chapters across the country, and said he is being listed as a resource with several nationwide missing children databases.

"I'm donating my time and my services, just because I want to do it. I want to give back to the community, and this is my way of doing it," Tayler said.

Still, it's infrequent that aerial searches take place in Lebanon County.

Chief Michael Lesher of South Lebanon Twp. said the last one in his department was last winter, when a nursing home patient wandered into a field. Fire department personnel found the person with a thermal-imaging device.

Lesher said he would probably rely on a state police helicopter, rather than a civilian craft, because it is manned with trained law enforcement personnel.

Chief Ben Sutcliffe of South Annville Twp. Police Department said he added Tayler to his list of available resources, but he won't be sending an officer up in the craft, because he doesn't have the manpower.

Sutcliffe said it's rare that his department launches searches, with perhaps one taking place in the last 12 years. That was a criminal matter, in which the state police helicopter was used.

Sutcliffe added he wouldn't want to put a civilian in jeopardy in a criminal matter.

Chief Bruce Harris of Cornwall Police Department said that under the right circumstances, he believes Tayler could assist his department.

"I think there are situations where it could be of great use to us," Harris said, such as lost hikers at Governor Dick or runaways from Philhaven Hospital.

But he's leaving it up to his officers whether they want to ride in Tayler's chute.

"So far there haven't been any takers, although we haven't had an opportunity to use it," Harris said.

Harris said his officers are aware of an accident two years ago in which a woman was critically injured in a crash of her boyfriend's powerchute at a Buffalo Springs airfield.

While Tayler said he doesn't know the details of that accident, he said he is specifically trained and certified in flying the two-seat powered parachute.

"Powerchutes generally are the safest form of flying ever invented," Tayler said.

In just the last two months, he's logged more than 50 hours in the air and is practicing with varying wind conditions, he said.

Copyright 2003 The Patriot-News. Used with permission.

Copyright © 2003 PowerChute Education Foundation, Inc.. All Right Reserved.
ELLASS is a project of the PowerChute Education Foundation, Inc.,
a 501(c)(3) tax exempt non-profit educational and charitable organization.