Greater Manchester Police (GMP) in the U.K. is replacing its MD902 Explorer with an updated model that will be delivered next year. GMP deputy chief constable, David Whatton, says: "Digital imagery and airwave technology has changed dramatically over the past few years, and this equipment needs to be updated in order to effectively police Greater Manchester. The new helicopter will benefit GMP by reducing overall running costs and giving us an operationally more effective aircraft for use in fighting crime and protecting people."
Derek Osbaldestin, chairman of the GMP authority, says: "The existing helicopter is a fantastic
asset and plays a key role in reducing crime and providing public reassurance." But he adds: "By the end of next year it will have accrued 8,000 flying hours, which is the optimum time to replace it before unscheduled maintenance costs start to rise."
GMP's current helicopter flies on average 1,200 hours per year and has completed 6,300 hours service since it was acquired in June 2001. In the five month period from April to September 2006 it undertook 2,365 tasks and clocked up 661 flying hours. This includes 771 offender searches, 260 vehicle pursuits and 154 "missing from home" searches.
The force expects to get £1.3m from selling its existing helicopter and a £1.3 million capital grant from the Home Office, the relevant government department. GMP is taking out a five year service agreement that it says will save £500,000 on maintenance costs. "The replacement makes good financial sense," Osbaldestin says.
The GMP covers an area of 5,000 square miles and is the second biggest police force in England
It employs 9,000 police officers, and over 5,000 other staff. "We need to make sure we use
resources efficiently and effectively," says Osbaldestin.