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Downey Police ultralight

Downey Police ultralight

Mar. 25, 1986: The city of Downey is spread out below Det. Mike Carney, piloting the Downey Police Department’s ultralight aircraft. The camera was mounted on the wing and triggered with a remote.

This photo by staff photographer Rick Corrales accompanied a Mar. 27, 1986, story by Times staff writer Ralph Cipriano that began:

DOWNEY — Pilot Mike Carney was preparing for takeoff at “Downey International Airport,” the unofficial name of the nondescript hangar behind the tennis courts at Independence Park.

He picked up the ultralight aircraft by the tail and pushed it out onto the freshly cut grass.

The plane’s 40-horsepower engine started with one jerk of the flywheel. Children who were practicing their tennis strokes against a block wall turned to watch as the plane bounced along the grass before lifting off into a hazy sky.

Carney, a detective, took the Police Department’s new ultralight on a test flight Monday. The plane was donated to the city earlier this month by a Rancho California ultralight manufacturer that cited the public relations value of the pioneering Downey program, now in its fourth year.

The department today is the only one in the state that uses the ultralight for police work. The first department in the state and nation to use the ultralight, Monterey Park, had to abandon its program last December after a liability insurance policy was canceled. Other departments in California and around the nation have experimented with the ultralight and rejected it for a variety of reasons.

Critics of the ultralight say it is not suited for police work because the craft is slow, carries only one person and is stressful to fly. The plane also can be dangerous because it is vulnerable to strong winds and turbulence from other aircraft, critics say.

For small cities such as Downey, however, ultralights are a bargain, said police officials in Downey, Monterey Park and Tempe, Ariz., where the ultralight has been used successfully to apprehend burglars and car thieves.

But promotions and safety concerns led to pilot turnover. This 1988 Times story reports that the ultralight was grounded as the Downey Police Department looked into single-engine aircraft with more capabilities.

The complete 1986 Downey Police Ultralight story is online here.

Downey Police discontinued the use of ultralight aircraft in 1989.

Mar. 25, 1986: The Downey Police ultralight zips past a spectator as it lands at Independence Park in Downey.  This photo was published in the Mar. 27, 1986, Los Angeles Times. Credit: Rick Corrales / Los Angeles Times

Mar. 25, 1986: The Downey Police ultralight sits in its hanger at Independence Park. Credit: Rick Corrales / Los Angeles Times


  1. June 22, 2012, 5:56 am

    Yes, Yes, but where is "Downey"?

    By: moelwy
  2. October 14, 2012, 3:31 pm

    Downey is about 10 to 13 miles south east of Downtown Los Angeles. It's pretty much bordered between the 105 fwy, 605 fwy, 5 fwy, Los Angeles river and Rio Hondo river.

    By: Eddie T.
  3. September 15, 2014, 11:07 am

    I love Downey!!!!!!!!!

    By: David Padilla

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