Cambridgeshire police helicopter scrapped

CAMBRIDGESHIRE police is to lose its force helicopter in an attempt to cut �500,000 from its budget.

Cambridgeshire Police Authority approved proposals to ground the �3.9million chopper opting to join with Chiltern Air Support Unit to cover the region’s skies.

The air support unit – which has helicopters based at RAF Henlow, Bedfordshire, and RAF Benson in Oxford – could answer up to 60 per cent of Cambridgeshire’s air calls.

It will be backed up by existing arrangements with Suffolk and Essex police forces, in a move that will save around �500,000 and provide 500 flying hours at a reduced cost per flight hour.

The changes are expected to come into force by April 2012, as part of plans to create a National Police Air Service, which is expected to deliver savings of around �15m nationally.

Ruth Rogers, chairman of Cambridgeshire Police Authority, said: “We are committed to supporting the constabulary in providing the most cost-effective air support service for the people of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

“We have to be realistic that with shrinking resources we must think collaboratively to save money all round.”

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Cambridgeshire has had a police helicopter since 1997, assisting in searches for missing people, pursuing criminals, monitoring events from the air, guiding officers on the ground and undertaking research and intelligence work.

The latest MD902 model is capable of 161mph and equipped with a 30million candle power “nitesun” searchlight video link to command centre.

Life-saving charity Magpas, which uses the police helicopter, has already said that it has a “plan in place” to cope with the withdrawal, pending final discussions with the force.

Daryl Brown, chief executive of Magpas, said: “Magpas would like to reassure the public that we will continue saving lives night and day. We will continue to operate on land and air: we are absolutely certain.”

Mark Hopkins, the force’s assistant chief constable, said: “We are confident that the move will provide a borderless air support service, which can be called upon 24/7 and result in more efficient tasking across the region and greater resilience.”