National police helicopter service

Derbyshire Constabulary has welcomed the formation of a national police helicopter service.

Under the new plans, announced today (Tuesday, October 26), the helicopter which serves both counties will become one of 23 aircraft operating under a borderless deployment basis.

Whichever aircraft is the nearest to a particular incident will be called on to attend, even if that incident is not happening in the county where it is based.

Currently, there are 33 police helicopters nationwide. The National Police Air Service will see this reduced to 23 aircraft operating from 20 bases.

The Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire helicopter will remain at its current base at police headquarters, Ripley.

The NPAS project aims to nationalise police helicopters by the end of March 2012, saving forces £15.27m. At present, the total cost of delivering air operations across England and Wales is £63.5m.

It cur! rently costs around £1.6m per year to operate the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire helicopter. If it continued to operate under the current regime, it is estimated that it would have cost £1.8m to run in 2012.

John Jameson, helicopter unit executive officer, said that one of the benefits of the new scheme is that one of three national relief helicopters will also be based at Ripley so that if the existing aircraft is off-line for service, the secondary helicopter can be used.

He said: “Currently, if our aircraft is unavailable, there is no cover for Derbyshire or Nottinghamshire unless we call for mutual aid from another force.

“NPAS means that we will always have a helicopter to call upon. It also means better coverage for places which are further from Ripley, such as Glossop and Retford.

“It takes around 16 minutes to fly to Glossop from Ripley but when NPAS comes into force, the helicopter serving the Manchester area will be able! to attend far quicker.”

Police officers and staff who form the existing North Midlands Helicopter Support Unit at Ripley will be seconded to NPAS once the new operation is established.

Mr Jameson added: “Residents in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire will not notice a difference in service once borderless deployment is established. If anything, we expect the level of helicopter coverage to increase.”

The NPAS project came about following a national review which highlighted inefficiencies with the existing helicopter arrangements, both in terms of cost and capability.

The service will be delivered by a national organisation and the NPIA is assisting with the implementation of the project. This work is at an early stage but full proposals will be put to the Air Service Project Board in early 2011.