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Badges up in the big blue: Perham accepts donation to have police officers trained as pilots

Three Perham police officers or other emergency responders may soon be earning their wings, thanks to a donation that will cover their flight training.

Richard McCrady, the man behind Wings Flight Training in Perham, has donated three scholarships to the city of Perham to make the flight training possible.

The donation was accepted by the city council at a meeting Monday. Worth an estimated $9,000 to $12,000 total, the scholarships will cover the major costs associated with becoming a trained Private Pilot at Wings Flight Training.

Up to 46 hours of Cessna 150 aircraft time will be covered by the scholarships, as well as up to 50 hours of instructor time and some other necessary support materials.

McCrady said each scholarship recipient will be responsible for about another $1,000 in out-of-pocket expenses for things like test fees and physical examinations.

Flight training is rarely available to emergency responders in smaller-sized cities like Perham, and Police Chief Jason Hoaby. He said there would be advantages to having trained pilots on hand.

Officers often respond to calls of missing or lost children, for example, or of missing or endangered adults, Hoaby said. In these cases, air support is helpful, but there

 are very few options. Currently, the Minnesota State Patrol is the area’s only option for such support, and availability is limited.

The Perham pilots could be utilized to help in these situations, for other information gathering, travel or life flights. They would be able to assist other agencies outside the city, if help were requested.

Aircraft usage would most likely be infrequent in Perham, Hoaby said in a letter shared with councilors. Still, he added, “This training would benefit the city and its residents when gathering information on ongoing criminal activity or when planning a response to a high risk incident... Law enforcement officers often train for infrequent but high risk situations.”

McCrady said he was offering the scholarships as a way to give back to the community and “to make opportunities available for people to get into aviation.”

A long-time aviator and business executive, McCrady said there has been “an incredible decline in pilots” in recent years – a trend he’s hoping to improve, at least locally, by making flight training more affordable and accessible.

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Perham Focus more than five years ago, and has since worn many hats as writer, editor and page designer. She lives in rural Frazee with her husband, Dan, their one-year-old son, Simon, and their yellow lab, Louisa. 

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