State police helicopter move leaves gap in service in Onondaga County

Jul 17, 2014

The New York State Police helicopter operation based in has moved to Rochester, which will cause a gap in air support for police investigations and rescues in central New York. Onondaga County’s Air One helicopter will still fly, but needs more funding to provide those services.

Before the state police helicopter moved, the troopers generally took care of calls during the day, and Onondaga County’s Air One handled them in the evening. County Sheriff Kevin Walsh says the county’s crime fighting helicopter can’t fill those day time hours at this time.

"We’re not going to be able to increase the usage for Air One until such time as we have more staff to man it more hours than we presently are,” said Walsh. “We’ll look at what the state police usage was and what our usage is, and try to figure out a schedule that works for best parties. But as it stands now, we’re doing the maximum we can do.”

The sheriff says he’s not convinced a helicopter from Rochester can get to central New York soon enough to help with a crime in progress.

“They’re 45 minutes away, and that’s if their in the air. So if they’re on the ground and they have to get to the helicopter and get here, any kind of crime in progress, the important part is over.”

Walsh says he’ll ask Onondaga County for about a quarter of a million dollars in next year’s budget. He says that would fund four more pilots that would make Air One available around the clock.  

Air One generally handles police work. Other regional helicopter services handle medical transport, and the state police could still be called to help in Central New York investigations.