ANCHORAGE — Alaska State Troopers have already grounded one of their two search and rescue helicopters due to budget cuts, and officials say if changes aren’t made they may not be able to afford the other chopper.
The Fairbanks-based helicopter Helo 2 has been grounded indefinitely since July, and currently troopers can only afford to keep the Anchorage-based Helo 3 in use through June 2016, KTVA-TV reported.
“Overall it’s about $250,000 per year for a helicopter to operate in Fairbanks,” said Alaska Wildlife Trooper Maj. Bernard Chastain.
Troopers have had to contract with outside companies for search and rescue missions both because of bad weather and because of the high cost of using a helicopter.
Keith Essex with Alpine Air said their helicopter is similar to the ones troopers use, but that their operators don’t have the same emergency training and experience.
“If they do need our help more often, we’re here to help,” he said.
Search and Rescue coordinator Lt. Steve Adams said despite the costs, rescue missions will still be accepted, though outside companies can sometimes cost more money and take more time.
“There’s been times where we cannot effect the search and rescue with our own resources, and we’ve had to ask for assistance or a charter aircraft, but we don’t turn down search and rescue,” Adams said.