- Is the helicopter a cost-effective way of policing?
- How much does it actually cost to keep the helicopter flying?
- The weather’s okay here, why can’t you attend?
- Why can military helicopters work in worse weather conditions?
- Does the helicopter ever leave the Exeter area?
- Why is the helicopter based in Exeter?
The helicopter can search an area of 1 mile square in 12 minutes. When searching rural areas of the Force, the helicopter is the best resource in eliminating open ground and inaccessible areas and by far the cheapest when compared with police officers on foot (454 man hours per mile squared). It is safer to search rooftops using the helicopter. It is the only significant large area night search capable resource.
The all inclusive cost is £1700 per hour, this includes everything including fuel, staff and insurance. The unit has an annual budget of 1,000 hours per year, an average of 2.75 flying hours per day.
The helicopter is well equipped to fly in marginal weather, but must fly within laid down limits, it is illegal for the crew to operate outside these limits at any stage of the flight.
Military aircraft operate to different limits, and in some case have onboard navigation radar and two pilots.
The helicopter, while based in Exeter, covers the entire region including: Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. It can fly from Exeter to the Isles of Scilly in one hour. The helicopter is now based at Exeter Airport.
There is a mutual aid scheme with Dorset and Avon & Somerset Constabularies; Air Operations in these forces cover one another in case of emergency. If the Force’s Air Operations Unit were based in Cornwall, for example, it would be too far west to assist these two forces.