Legislature votes to keep Air One flying

Air One helicopter / file photo

Onondaga County legislators have rejected a proposal to sell the Sheriff's Department's Air One helicopter.

During Tuesday afternoon's meeting, legislators defeated a proposal to declare the helicopter surplus property and auction it off by a vote of 18 to 1. That one yes vote was from Legislature Chairman James Rhinehart. Rhinehart has said the helicopter is a luxury the county can't afford.

Sheriff Kevin Walsh says the chopper is a life-saving tool. He feels the key to Air One's victory in the legislature was the speakers he brought to the meeting. Firefighters, police officials, rescue personnel, and families of people who have been rescued spoke in front of the legislature at the meeting.

Sheriff Walsh says he will continue to raise money to pay the $600,000 it takes each year to keep Air One flying. Walsh is gathering private donations through the Air One Foundation, and working to get approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to charge insurance companies for medical transports. Walsh says he is also in touch with surrounding counties about having them cover some of the costs of services provided to them. Air One sometimes crosses county lines to help with situations in other counties.