SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- There's a lot of ways the Onondaga County Sheriff's Office helps keep this community safe, but the Air 1 helicopter is used to flying under the radar.
"I think the public doesn't realize how busy we actually are. We're doing something every night,” said chief pilot James Farley.
In 2015, Air 1 responded to 1,058 calls and put in 377 flight hours. The majority of flights are for missing person calls, but 21 were medevacs, 16 fires and seven for ice rescue. Not to mention, they do it all with a crew of just five people.
"We do the best we can with what we have,” said Air 1 pilot Jason Bracey. “We typically work from four in the afternoon until two in the morning, during the day we're on call if we need to respond."
And although they respond to all types of calls, like search and rescues, their main priority is making sure the community as a whole is safe. They keep watch over Onondaga County every night with a patrol flight.
"There'll be infrastructure, water towers, reservoirs, that type of things, power supply facilities, we'll fly over them and make sure there's no suspicious activity going on,” said Farley. “So we're not just flying around burning gas. We're always actively doing something."
Air 1 is the only law enforcement helicopter in the region, the next closest is the state police's aviation unit in Rochester.
"The thing with the helicopter is if it's an ongoing investigation you can have that delay, but if it's a call that's occurring right now and they want air assistance immediately, for example a police pursuit, it's important that we're able to respond rapidly to assist them,” said Farley.
As for the cost of it all? Officials say it can vary depending on the mission, but an hour flight runs around $700.
And it takes some time to become an Air 1 pilot. All members of the aviation unit first started as ground patrol officers before they could take their police work to the sky.