Frequently Asked Questions
Who hosts the operation and service of NPAS?
NPAS is delivered through a lead force model. West Yorkshire Police is currently the lead force for the National Police Air Service (NPAS). This ensures that NPAS is led and owned by the police service and delivers the operational benefits and financial savings that have been presented to individual policing bodies.
How does this fit in with Police and Crime Commisioners (PCCs)
PCCs are parties of the NPAS Collaboration Agreement and play a key role in the overall governance of the NPAS Strategic Board as stated within the NPAS Collaboration Agreement.
When was NPAS implemented?
NPAS was implemented in a phased approach from October 2012- January 2015.
How is NPAS funded?
NPAS is funded through contributions from forces.
Why do police forces need air support?
Police air support plays a key role in tackling crime and protecting the public:
- Searching for suspects or missing persons
- Reconnaissance ahead of planned operations
- Supporting public order operations, including live feeds of video to commanders on the ground
- Assisting with vehicle pursuits
What are the benefits of air support/NPAS?
- can search large areas quickly (twenty times faster than other options and fewer ground resources required). This often means the difference between life and death
- can provide an aerial overview of a situation, minimising risk to members of the public and police officers
- provides downlink into control rooms
- ability to surge resources in times of greatest need
- ability to move aircraft and crews to meet demand across England and Wales
- enhanced safety of the public and officers
- production of specialist quality evidence
- a visible and powerful deterrent ensuring communities are safe and feel safer
Wouldn’t the money be better spent putting more officers on the front line?
Aircraft provide vital support for police ground operations and are one of a number of key assets available to the police. In searches for suspects or missing persons they can clear large areas that would otherwise tie up many officers for many hours, as well as checking inaccessible or dangerous areas such as roofs, through use of infra-red detection technology.
In public order situations they provide an overview enabling commanders to make the most effective deployments and respond quickly to emerging problems.
In support of NPAS, The Secretary of State has made the Police (Collaboration: Specified Function) Order 2012, order under Section 23FA of the Police Act 1996, to specify air support as a function to be carried out through a single national collaboration agreement for England and Wales.
Where are the bases located?
There are air support bases at strategic locations across England and Wales that provide the operational capability to deliver an effective service. Access the base map
What type of aircraft does NPAS fly?
NPAS fleet consists of Eurocopter EC135s and EC145s, plus four Vulcanair P68R aeroplanes.
Do you also operate drones?
Not at the moment, although we have been tasked by the Home Office to explore the value of Beyond the Visual Line of Sight drones as part of the future of police air support. Many, but not all, police forces in England and Wales operate drones from within their force areas. They can be useful in assisting with searches, within line of sight, although they don't offer the full benefits of a crewed aircraft.
What can you do to reduce the noise caused by the aircraft, especially at night?
We understand that the noise from our aircraft can be disrupting but we are keen to reassure people that we only fly when it is necessary to do so, mainly in order to save a life or assist in the apprehension of suspects. We will always do our best to minimise disruption, avoiding low flying when it is not necessary, and avoiding built up areas if we can, although this isn't always possible and very much depends on the location of the crime or critical incident. We always comply with Civil Aviation Authority regulation in relation to flying operations and noise.
How fast can the helicopters and aeroplanes fly?
This depends very much on the type of operation the aircraft are conducting. Although they can travel faster, our helicopters will usually cruise between 120-130knots (135-150mph), and aeroplanes 120-140knots (130-160mph) . At this speed the aircraft easily cover over two miles every minute.
How long can a helicopter and aeroplane 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. The aeroplanes can stay airborne twice as long as the helicopters, and have been known to remain in the air on operational tasks for over eight hours.
How often do they have to be serviced?
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.
Why do the police aircraft have a yellow and blue paint scheme?
All police helicopters and aeroplanes 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.
Do the aircraft 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.
Do police officers pilot the helicopters and aeroplanes?
No. The pilots are civilian staff.
Are the aircraft 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 an aircraft is always taken seriously, ensuring a proportionate response both day and night. The aircraft 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.
Can I find out why the helicopter or aeroplane was flying over my area?
As NPAS is a tactic which police forces can employ, we're unable to share specific information about our activity. Police forces across England and Wales may choose to share this information via their social media accounts.
Can I fly in a police helicopter or aeroplane?
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.