National Police Air Service (NPAS)

NPAS Aircraft FAQs


1. What type of helicopters does NPAS fly?           
NPAS fleet consists of Eurocopter EC135’s and EC145's.

2. How fast can the helicopters fly?
This depends very much on the type of operation the helicopter is conducting. Although they can travel faster, our aircraft will usually cruise between 120-130kts (135-155mph). At this speed the aircraft easily cover over two miles every minute. They also have the added benefit of not having to slow down for corners, unlike the stolen vehicle that they may be watching!

3. How long can they stay in the air?
That will depend on the type of operation the helicopter is conducting and what equipment it is carrying. It also varies depending on the type of flying involved, e.g. hovering on a hot summer day will take more fuel than slow orbits.  Each helicopter has a maximum endurance of approx two hours.

4. How often do they have to be serviced?
As helicopters are more mechanically complex than fixed-wing aircraft then regular servicing is essential. The helicopters are checked by the pilots twice daily and receive maintenance inspections every 50 flying hours with more involving checks being carried out every 100+ hours as well. The aircraft are also inspected and serviced annually.

5. Why do the helicopters have a yellow and blue paint scheme?
All police helicopters are painted in the same uniform colours (with minor variations in design) so that they can be seen by other aircraft when flying. The yellow shows up against the ground to an aircraft flying above while the dark blue contrasts against the sky to an aircraft alongside or below.

6. Do helicopters have a registration number like a car?
Yes, every aircraft has a registration number which can be found written in large letters on both sides of the tail.  Each one will start with the letter “G” because they have been registered with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in the UK.

7. How much fuel do they use?
 This depends on the type of flying the aircraft is conducting. Hovering on hot summer days will use more fuel than carrying out slow orbits. On average the aircraft will use 250-300 litres of fuel per hour.

8. Do police officers pilot the helicopters?
No. The pilots are civilian staff, all with experience of flying either military or commercial helicopters.

9. Are the helicopters allowed to fly over residential areas at night?
Yes they can. The crews provide a service to operational officers and the public. The decision to call out a helicopter is always taken seriously, ensuring a proportionate response both day and night.  The helicopters are a useful resource in the dark as they are all equipped with thermal imaging cameras which allow the crew to see at night. The aircraft fly higher at night to keep noise to a minimum, especially over residential areas, and will leave the scene of an incident as soon as possible.

10. How can I find out why the helicopter was flying over my area?
Information on all tasks that our aircraft attend is published via social media, which is updated on return to base after each flight (other operational tasks allowing of course!). See the relevant base web page for further information.

11. Can I fly in a police helicopter?
The carriage of passengers in NPAS aircraft is strictly regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority. Passengers are currently limited to serving Police Officers, Special Constables and members of Police Staff who have regular involvement with NPAS aircraft.