One of North Wales’ two police helicopters ‘retired’ yesterday as police air service cuts take hold
The National Police Air Service (NPAS) helicopter based in Rhuddlan ‘retired’ from service yesterday, Monday 15th September as part of a program of cuts by NPAS bosses in an effort to save on annual operating costs.
The crew of NPAS Rhuddlan, a regular site and sound in the skies above Deeside, used social media regularly to inform followers of their latest missions, they tweeted yesterday evening for the last time:
“The last day and the final tweet from NPAS Rhuddlan. Thanks for all your kind messages”
An hour or so later the twitter account had been shut down.
The NPAS Rhuddlan base is one of eight out of a total of 23 to close, it falls under the police air services North West region which also includes the other North Wales based helicopter at Hawarden, one at Barton in Manchester and the other at Warton near Lancaster.
The North West region has scaled back to three police helicopters covering major conurbations including Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Lancashire, parts of Cumbria as well as the North Wales force area to Barmouth, Dolgellau and Anglesey
At the time of the closure announcement back in February Constable Simon Newport, chair of the North Wales Police Federation, said:
“The budget cuts being forced on the service are having a direct effect on the public and the service they receive.
“We have already had £18.9m of cuts and are informed that in the next four years there will be another £15.5m of cuts.
“The helicopter would be massively missed because, geographically, it’s such a large force area.
“In the air, it covers a much wider area and at much quicker speeds than units on the ground.”
Chief Superintendent Ian Whitehouse, the accountable officer for NPAS said:
“This move will help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the service, and means that every base supports police forces 24 hours a day.
“It is a move based on an analysis of potential threat, risk and harm to the public we serve.”
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner.
Following the announcement in February that NPAS Rhuddlan was to close North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Winston Roddick sought assurances North Wales would have adequate air cover.
“The reassurance I shall be seeking from NPAS is that the integrity of the air cover for North Wales will be maintained and that a first class service will continue to be provided.
“The base at Hawarden will remain operational and the reconfigured fleet will be able to provide a more integrated service which means there will be reserve aircraft on standby should the need arise.”
It is believed parts of Mid and North Wales will eventually be supported by fixed-wing NPAS aircraft as well as helicopter support from at least two of the three North West region helicopters, Hawarden and Barton, Warton has been known to work in Deeside.
Last week the National Police Air Service awarded a contract to Airborne Technologies of Austria for four police role-equipped fixed-wing surveillance aircraft.
The planes which are cheaper to fly than helicopters and can stay airborne for longer periods, will be based at a purpose-built facility at East Midlands Airport and serve the whole of England and Wales
The four Vulcanair P.68R airframes will boast significant upgrades to the airframe, each aircraft will also see the addition of camera and mapping systems.
Once in service, they will replace four helicopters currently in use, providing a minimum 80 per cent of the helicopters’ capability, despite each new plane costing around two thirds less to buy and run than a new helicopter, said NPAS.