ROCKFORD - Air One is a truly unique group made up of police officers, emergency responders, and some of the most experienced helicopter pilots in the word, all providing the Stateline with world renowned service.
They're considered the Stateline's eye in the sky, a collection of 70 men and women who provide helicopter air support whenever it's needed.
"Everybody wants to be here, they volunteered to be here," said Air One chief pilot Randy Olson.
The Air One flight team first took flight back in 2003 when a private helicopter was donated to a local police department. Since then, the all-volunteer group has acquired 9 helicopters and the latest technology
The helicopters were "free aircraft that were donated to law enforcement, and basically without them, we couldn't be doing this," said Olson.
Making them one of the most unique volunteer organizations in the country, even the FBI refers other law enforcement groups to them for training and advice.
"They [the FBI] said you were the best outfit in the country for doing this," said Olson.
What Air One does is search for missing people, help police track criminals, and assist in rescue operations.
"We can cover a fairly large area in a few minutes," said Stephenson County Deputy Sheriff James Norton. "Where it would take a search party on the ground of several people hours and hours to search it."
"They were able to see where some railroad tracks were washed out and notified the railroad potentially averting a train derailment," said Norton.
Volunteers also travel all over the country to help with major disasters.
"We got the call to go to Katrina," said Olson. "And we went down to Katrina, and we rescued over 800 some people from the Tulane hospital."
Olson has been flying with air one since 2005. Most of the pilots are
"So almost all of these guys know what it is to fly," said Olson. "But they know what it is to crash too, so they want to keep them in the air, so that's why safety has always been a big, big issue with us."
Air craft used by Air One are stored in three
separate hangers including
The main helicopter that's stored at Rockford's airport, is equipped with search light known as a 'Night Sun' that can light up an entire city block, GPS, infrared, as well as the ability to talk to any police agency, homeland security, and the military.