Bay Area
Rorotcraft & Ultralight Club

Ultralights Help Capture Fugitive!

Sunday evening, July 25, 2004, the Michigan State Police came to Gross Airport and requested two club members, Bob Johnston and Tom Taylor, to help them find an escaped fugitive located between Fraser Road, Mackinaw Road, Neuman Road and Townline 16 Road. This search area is only one to two miles Southeast of the airport. The suspect was a young white male wearing a light grey T-shirt and was wanted on at least 6 felony warrants. There was a major police search already in progress.

The State Police had observed the two ultralights flying in the vicinity and came to Gross Airport to make contact. Both planes landed after an evening of fun flying in the local Pinconning area. Contact was then made between the State Police and the two ultralights. Search parameters were set into motion and radio communications were quickly established between a plane on the ground at Gross Airport, which the State Police were monitoring, and the two ultralights performing the search.

It was right around sunset (9:11 PM), but both planes were equipped with radios and strobe lights which legally extended their flying time 30 minutes past sunset. Bob and Tom took off, flew to the area and began searching at low levels. They continued sweeping the area until they had to return to Gross Airport due to approaching darkness. Neither Bob nor Tom were successful in spotting the suspect from the air.

However, the State Police brought in a search dog team around the same time the ultralights had to return to the airport. They were able to locate and apprehend the suspect in a matter of minutes. The State Police said their immediate success in capturing the fugitive was in no small part due to the efforts of the ultralights searching the area. The ultralights were successful in keeping the suspect pinned down until the dog team arrived.

This was one of those exceptionally beautiful evenings to be flying. The air was cool, smooth and dead calm. This made searching the area at low level very easy. Both ultralights were able to fly the area safely at or near tree top level.

As a side light, this was Tom's 100th landing in his ultralight. Bob has many more.

Bob Johnston

Tom Taylor