UK – major changes ahead for National Police Air Service

UK – major changes ahead for National Police Air Service

18-Jun-2021 Source: Mayor of West Yorkshire

The statement below from the Mayor of West Yorkshire has far reaching, and hopefully some very positive steps ahead for aerial policing in the UK.  NPAS (National Police Air Service) was formed in October 2012 following a national review of air support by the Home Office and is delivered by West Yorkshire Police as the lead force, but very few industry observers believe it has been a success. Last month the responsibility for NPAS moved from the West Yorkshire Police to the Mayor’s office as part of a local reorganisation – and under six weeks later the newly elected Mayor has initiated the removal of NPAS from her portfolio.

Hours flown per year are significantly lower than prior to NPAS coming in to being in 2012.  It did not take long after that for it to become apparent that having the whole operation – 16 Airbus EC135s and 4 EC145s across 14 bases (and more recently four fixed wing and a 15th base) – run by people with insufficient aviation experience was a poorly-conceived move.  Lower morale and lower utilisation soon followed, and a few years down the line we have a fleet in desperate need of a planned replacement program, among various other urgent actions.  While there were certainly opportunities for centralisation and cost savings from the previous setup, the model used was not the right one.

One aspect of this is exemplified by a senior police officer in the West Yorkshire force being widely quoted as arrogantly saying that no helicopter pilot should earn more than him, and thus the pilot role was moved down the force pay scale to a level below what the aviation industry would pay for the experience required – in terms of hours, night flying, NVIS, etc.

The decision by the Mayor of West Yorkshire move opens up new opportunities.  The current fleet of 14 helicopters were all acquired new between 2001 and 2010, and almost the entire fleet has over 10,000 hours on each airframe, with the fleet lead on 18,000 hours.  The task of managing 20 helicopters, 15 bases, employing and training pilots and so on is no small task and there are only a few organisations in a position to take this on.  HeliHub.com will continue to watch and report on the evolution of UK aerial law enforcement.

For completeness, we note that aerial policing in Northern Ireland and Scotland are managed separately to NPAS, which covers England and Wales.

Jeremy Parkin – HeliHub.com


Statement from The Mayor of West Yorkshire

The Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin has given 12 months formal notice to cease the role that West Yorkshire plays as the lead local policing body for the National Police Air Service (NPAS).

It follows a personal meeting last week with the Minister of State for Policing and Crime, Kit Malthouse MP, where the service’s future was discussed.

Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire said:

“With my election I have assumed the Police and Crime Commissioner responsibilities as Lead Local Policing Body for the National Police Air Service.

“At times, leadership of NPAS has been a herculean effort by all involved and I pay tribute to all the staff who do a great job day-in-day out in providing this specialist key service for policing and our communities.

“Since the outset, when NPAS was first established under a West Yorkshire lead force model on behalf of policing in England and Wales, it has always been anticipated that there would be a change in the way that the service is delivered, and over the last few years there has been much work and time spent on reviewing the governance and leadership of police aviation.

“Progress has been slow due to a number of reasons, and I believe now is the right time to take stock of the situation and look towards a different way of operating the service.

“Although NPAS is a unique national collaboration with a strong brand and has evolved over many years during difficult times in delivering a truly 24/7 borderless service, the conflicting pressures of diminishing resources, new technology and the ever-changing requirements of policing in England & Wales nearly 10 years on have become too great to dismiss.

“It is against this backdrop that I have now provided the required 12 months’ notice, to cease the current role that West Yorkshire plays as the lead local policing body.

“I know there is already an emerging consensus among Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) for a new delivery model to be established and this is a view that I also share.

“If this is to be achieved, however, the Home Office must also play a key role in helping to jointly secure a sustainable solution for the future of police air support in tandem with any proposed governance changes.

“While we arrive at a position where we can hand over to a new delivery model and structure, West Yorkshire Police will continue to deliver NPAS to the same high standards in supporting policing and helping to keep our communities safe throughout England & Wales.”

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