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SKY PATROL: ISP Searches For Stranded Drivers

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At 70 MPH, hit a patch of ice and you could end up stranded in a ditch. if it happens to you, the first person you're likely to see is an Iowa State Patrol officer.

They show up, offering you a ride to safety.

Hundreds of Iowans have received a lift after losing control of their vehicles in the winter weather.

From the ground, there's only so much officers can see. So when the weather takes a turn for the worst, officers take to the sky.

The hope is that they'll be able to spot stranded drivers troopers on the ground may not be aware of.

"Our field of view is almost limitless. What you see as far as hills and curves looks flat from the air,” said Scott Pigsley, a trooper pilot with the Iowa State Patrol.

Pigsley traded in his patrol car for a Cessna aircraft 18 years ago.

"After being a road trooper for a few years, they had an opening for a pilot,” said Pigsley.

In his career as a trooper pilot, he's spotted dozens of drivers who have gotten lost or slid off the road.

"I’ve had overdue motorists. They don’t make it to work because they have been in a bad wreck and people don’t drive by them,” Pigsley told Channel 13 News.

If it's an accident that troopers haven't responded to, Pigsley serves as a navigator.

His view from above makes it easy to help fellow officers get to stranded motorists.

At 160 miles per hour, pilots can cover a lot more ground three times as fast.

With temperatures well below zero, every second counts when getting to a motorist officers below may not know is in danger.

"Officers can't see everyone from the roadway, but with my direction, they can drive in and locate the vehicle,” said Pigsley.

Thursday's flight was the first this winter searching for stranded motorists.

Iowa State Patrol has six planes and seven pilots to cover the whole state.


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