Sgt. Kate McHugh flying high as first female SABLE pilot

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WILMINGTON,NC (WWAY) — After years of hard work, a member of the New Hanover County Sheriff’s office is making history. Sgt. Kate McHugh is the first female helicopter pilot for SABLE.

The Southeastern North Carolina Airborne Law Enforcement, or SABLE, is a helicopter used by departments like the NHSO and Wilmington Police Department to provide them an eye in the sky.

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“My chief pilot Paul Letson had asked me if I would ever be interested in learning to fly and I said absolutely,”said McHugh. “We put a plan together and presented it to the sheriff’s office and they supported me a hundred percent.”

It was a goal that was years in the making for McHugh. She started working for the New Hanover Sheriff’s office in 2012, but it wasn’t until 2018 that she saw the opening to become a tactical flight operator. She was more than up for the challenge.

“It was easy to see from the beginning the potential that she brought to the program,”says SABLE Chief Pilot Paul Letson. “Training her through the process and opening the door for this was a very simple decision to make.”

McHugh says it’s being that extra set of eyes for the officers on the ground that made her fall in love with this profession.

“When your on the ground, you’re looking at the person in front of you, you not seeing the blocks around you,”says McHugh. “So, being able to make that difference for the officers and the deputies is truthfully what I love about it.”

Those around her say that this is only the beginning for her career and not even the sky is the limit.

“She is one of the most modest people I have ever met and this a big step,”said Letson. “I’m extremely proud and she has done amazing at this.”