Chopper for Henlow?

PUBLISHED: 13:51 06 April 2006 | UPDATED: 09:55 06 May 2010

The eye in the sky

The eye in the sky

POLICE forces in Herts, Beds and Thames Valley will have to decide over the next year where to park their helicopter. The tri-force helicopter has been based at Luton Airport for several years but now the police have been told to find a new home for the a

POLICE forces in Herts, Beds and Thames Valley will have to decide over the next year where to park their helicopter.

The tri-force helicopter has been based at Luton Airport for several years but now the police have been told to find a new home for the aircraft and the team that flies it.

One site that would be an ideal choice is RAF Henlow where there are the facilities and space to accommodate the helicopter and its crew on a secure military base.

Bedfordshire police said this week that no decision on where the 175mph Eurocopter EC135 will be housed has been made.

"We have a year before the unit has to be moved and a decision will be made as soon as possible," said a police spokesman.

"A number of sites are being considered and they will all be discussed in the coming months."

Natalie Raper, spokesman for Luton Airport, said: "Because of the helicopter's current location it is on a part of the airport where it has to fly over a busy taxiway so its operational profile does not fit in with a busy airport.

"Another site at the airport was ruled out because we are already preparing planning permission to develop this site.

"We are an expanding and busy airport and having the police helicopter here does not fit into the operating structure of the airport.

"Safety is of paramount importance and the airport is getting busier all the time so the helicopter will have to find another home within the next year."

The helicopter, part of the Chiltern Air Support Unit which has a second aircraft based at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire, costs between £600 and £800 an hour to run when the aircraft is in the air.

Over the years it has been responsible for many crime busting operations and can be scrambled 24 hours a day. Two years ago Henlow was tipped to take the unit when Luton Airport voiced concerns at its continued operations from the airport.

"Henlow would be an ideal base for the helicopter where it can easily serve both Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire and is not far from Thames Valley's patch," said a Hertfordshire Police Authority member.


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