Operation of the new National Police Air Service for England and Wales began earlier this month with 11 counties in southeast England the first to be covered by the revamped system.

Three helicopters have already been transferred to the new service, according to Flightglobal's Ascend Online database. These are a pair of MD Helicopters MD902s (G-SUSX and G-CMBS) and a Eurocopter EC135 T2 (G-SURY). These aircraft will be based at four sites to cover the southeast: Boreham airfield in Essex; the Army Air Corps' Wattisham airfield in Suffolk; Redhill Aerodrome in Surrey; and RAF Benson in Oxfordshire.

national police air services roll-out

If more resources are needed for a specific incident in this region, they will be provided by the Metropolitan Police's air support unit using its three Eurocopter EC145s.

The NPAS will be progressively rolled out across England and Wales, with the final county, Wiltshire, joining the scheme in 2015.

The lead police force for the new service is West Yorkshire. Calls from officers across England and Wales for air support will be routed to a call handling centre in the northern county that will then dispatch the nearest available rotorcraft.

The Association of Chief Police Officers lead for NPAS, Chief Constable Alex Marshall, says: "Artificial boundaries have meant that helicopters are restricted to operating within their own force area or consortia. A truly national, borderless service will ensure effective coverage of urban and rural areas."

Based on the findings of a 2009 review, the shift to the new service is designed to "provide more efficient and accessible air support" while also offering "better value for money", according to ACPO.

It aims to provide an air service to 98% of the population of England and Wales within 20min.

In total, the service will operate 25 aircraft from 23 locations, with a further three helicopters in reserve.

Source: Flight International