Devon and Cornwall police launch new helicopter

Devon and Cornwall Police this week launched its new helicopter – which during its maiden flight was involved in evacuating a seriously injured motorist and locating a vulnerable missing person.

Devon and Cornwall Police this week launched its new helicopter - which during its maiden flight was involved in evacuating a seriously injured motorist and locating a vulnerable missing person.

The Eurocopter EC145 replaces the former Eurocopter BK117 machine and has been three years in the planning by the force's air operations team.

As well as having better external design, aerodynamics and being quieter, the new helicopter also has improved air endurance with the ability to fly for two and-a-half hours - compared to only 90 minutes with the previous machine.

It also has upgraded digital avionics and auto-pilot, bringing greater capability and reliability.

Captain Ian Payne, Devon and Cornwall air operations unit manager, said: "We have planned significantly for the new helicopter and it will have a big impact on our ability to support police operations on the ground.

"We already know the life saving benefits of having a helicopter, but the new machine will allow us to be even more efficient and give us greater capability in the air for longer periods of time."

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The EC145 has been part-funded by the Home Office and is expected to last the force a minimum of 10 years - with further funds gained from the residual sale of the old helicopter.

The new machine is fitted with sophisticated thermal imaging cameras and a powerful 'nightsun' light, while remaining the only civilian aircraft in the country that can be used with night vision goggle technology.

Cpt Payne added: "Particularly in the hunt for missing people, the helicopter is a vital tool in searching large and inaccessible areas properly and at much greater speed than ground units are able to do.

"We also train with groups like Dartmoor Rescue Group, Cornwall Rescue Group and HM Coastguard so that when necessary we can work with partners to get to and deal with an incident professionally and effectively - ultimately saving lives.

"We know the helicopter makes a difference, not only in life or death situations, but also in targeting crime and reducing anti-social behaviour in targeted areas."

The new helicopter is available 24 hours a day and can operate with ground-based automatic number plate recognition units, while also having a digital downlink to provide pictures on the ground.

And the police helicopter remains the first port of call when the Devon Air Ambulance is off-line or requires more than one helicopter for evacuations.

Devon and Cornwall's air operations unit has been in existence since 1979 and was the first provincial force in the country to use a helicopter.

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