Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- Onondaga County’s Air 1 Sheriff’s helicopter is flying a lot less than ever before. The chopper is starting its second year without any direct county funding.
Just a couple of years ago, the Sheriff’s Office was looking at the possibility that Air 1 could be grounded and sold. It stayed, but only because the sheriff agreed to find ways to fund it himself. He’s creatively using positions in his budget to keep the pilots, securing federal grants, using proceeds from things like drug seizures and a private fundraising foundation.
Still, it’s greatly reduced flying time, which is down from a high of 1,200 hours a year in the air to just 300 hours last year. $1,200 a year in the air to just $300 last year.
"It’s up more now in terms of response when called, as opposed to being able to do some of the preventative things that we used to do. We used to have more time in the air, which gave us a chance to observe things, to be more readily available,” Onondaga County Sheriff Kevin Walsh told NewsChannel 9.
Displays for the Air-1 Foundation at the Car Show and a similar showing at the Boat Show at the Fairgrounds are helping raise money for the foundation and keep Air 1 flying.
“We know this should be a public/private relationship. We are doing our best to provide that private part of the relationship and there needs to be public support from the Legislature, government support. We certainly have public support from the people in this county and surrounding counties,” Sheriff Walsh continued.
In its first year, the foundation pulled in about $76,000. They’re hoping to eventually get it to about $150,000. The department is still working through the lengthy bureaucratic process they say to be able to bill for medical transports when responding to emergencies.
Air 1 has received contributions from Oswego and Cayuga counties to help offset the cost when the chopper is called to help there. The office has reached out to several other counties, as well.