August 3, 2003
Powered Parachutist offers to serve
as police departments'
EYE IN THE SKY
BY BARBARA MILLER
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
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,"
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
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
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
"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,"
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
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
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
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.