By W. Thomas Smith, Jr.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott took to the air Tues. afternoon, Oct. 27, as pilots with the Richland County Sheriff’s Dept. (RCSD) Aviation Unit tested and demonstrated helicopter performance capabilities all the while conducting a routine patrol operation over Richland County.

Sheriff Lott (pictured here) flew with Pilot Heriberto “Ted” Heredia, who was the right-seat command pilot on this particular mission, and Chief Pilot Lloyd Dunham aboard RCSD’s newly upfitted UH-1H Huey helicopter. One of RCSD’s nine aviation platforms – including two helicopters, one Cessna 172M fixed-wing aircraft, and six unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) – the UH-1 was recently stripped of its original military equipment and replaced with civilian-grade avionics and new police communications gear.

Last month, RCSD pilots received additional training in the UH-1H, including training in emergency procedures unique to the Huey.

Also flying with Sheriff Lott and his UH-1H aircrew, Tues., was RCSD’s OH-58 Kiowa helicopter flown by Pilot Javier Figueroa.

Four full-time pilots serve in the RCSD Aviation Unit, as well as five part-time pilots, one reserve pilot, a tactical flight officer who coordinates with RCSD ground units, and a supervisor of aviation.

The UH-1H has been part of the RCSD inventory since 2013.

INTERESTING ASIDE: U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Thomas Payne, recently received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for combat valor, for his extraordinary heroism during an operation against ISIS in Iraq in 2015. Payne, who was presented his award at the White House on Sept. 11, 2020, is the adopted son of RCSD Pilot Drayton Shealy.

– Photo by RCSD Deputy Sara Blann

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