Video/Gallery: Tour round police helicopter base at Wattisham Airfield
16:28 26 February 2013
THE boss of Suffolk’s police helicopter has emphasised the service’s importance in tackling crime.
Base manager Julian Bosley was speaking as he gave an exclusive tour round the helicopter facility at Wattisham Airfield.
The county’s helicopter which covers Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and north Essex can be airborne in response to an emergency call in just two minutes.
Sergeant Bosley, 42, said: “We deal with 100 to 150 incidents per month – a wide range of things- reactive stuff, vehicle pursuits, crimes in progress, missing people, people having a crisis.
“We are aware we are noisy, we ask police on the ground and we stay there until they are confident it is secure.
“It costs about £1.25million per year to run the helicopter, staff and engineering costs. I know it costs an awful lot to run a police helicopter but a lot of people are quite proud that Suffolk as a county was able to get funding together to run a helicopter ourselves. It’s a service of reassurance. I always know it makes people ask what’s going on when they see it in the air.
“The east of England was the first set of police forces to move to the National Police Air Service which happened for a combination of things. It’s about efficiency, there’s no doubt, having one aircraft here for the county is not very efficient.”
The team fly the £6million Eurocopter EC135 which carries a range of tools to counter criminals down on the ground.
A thermal imaging camera can detect people in the dark, a separate camera provides coverage in the daytime as well as a rear search light and a powerful PA system.
A former nuclear bunker, dating from the Cold War era, houses the helicopter and its team at the base near Stowmarket.
The base’s personnel include a team of four pilots, seven air observers and a team of engineers.
The Eurocopter can stay airborne for up to two hours and cruises at 120knots (140mph).
Suffolk is protected with a 24-hour helicopter presence since the National Police Air Service took over from Suffolk Constabulary last October.