Reorganization of Great Britain’s police helicopter bases is well under way, in a campaign to provide “more efficient and accessible” air support to police forces in England and Wales. Although the number of bases is being cut, the improved efficiency of the system should eventually ensure that 98 percent of the population is within 20 minutes’ flight time of a base.
Police aviation in the United Kingdom
Eurocopter handed over an EC 135P2i to West Midlands Police assistant chief constable Sharon Rowe yesterday here at the Farnborough airshow. The helicopter, which was ordered last September, is a replacement of an EC 135 that was destroyed by arson last year. In the meantime, the French helicopter manufacturer kept the West Midlands Police in the air by supplying a police-configured interim EC135 shortly after the incident.
London’s Metropolitan Police Air Support Unit in June flew its 5,000th hour (in almost two years) with its fleet of three Eurocopter EC 145s equipped with Skyquest Aviation’s video-management system. The aircraft feature five mission-management screens and several recording devices. The crew can view multiple sensors at once.
The UK’s Home Office has announced funding for six new police Eurocopter EC 135s. The £5 million ($7 million) capital grant for air support is part of the first joint procurement by six UK police forces. The Police Air Support Units in Suffolk, Cheshire, North Wales, Cleveland, Midlands and Chilterns will each receive a new Pratt & Whitney Canada-powered EC 135P2i.
Last month the Aviation Unit of Miami-Dade Police Department took delivery of the first of four new Eurocopter AS 350B3s. The remaining three helicopters will be delivered at the rate of one annually over the next three years. In Texas, the Department of Public Safety took delivery of its first EC 145.
Although the shadow of the September 11 atrocity in the U.S. was evident at Helitech, the major American companies participated fully, and some praised both the exhibition and its new venue. Previously held at Redhill Aerodrome, conveniently close to London Gatwick Airport but all too often waterlogged, Helitech moved this year to Duxford Airfield’s hard runway and concrete apron–a switch that was widely welcomed.
Police and emergency services helicopters have undergone a dramatic metamorphosis since the mid-1980s, evolving from the equivalent of the Sopwith Camel to a worthy contemporary of the Eurofighter Typhoon, according to McAlpine Helicopters commercial director Dick Richardson. McAlpine, a Eurocopter distributor, outfits public-service helicopters in the UK.
The air-medical market just keeps on reaping benefits for the world’s No. 1 producer of civil helicopters.
London’s metropolitan police force has ordered three new Eurocopter EC 145s to supplement, and one day replace, a pair of AS 355 Twin Stars. The helicopters are already in the UK, about to be role-equipped and completed by UK Eurocopter distributor McAlpine Helicopters.
Eurocopter’s EC 145, the workhorse twin turbine that evolved from the BK 117 several years ago, is going to experience an increase in production, from 19 a year last year to 25 a year this year, according to the manufacturer.