Three new EC145s have been put into service with London's Metropolitan (Met) police air support unit at its base in Lippitts Hill, Essex. "Fitted with the most advanced mission equipment, the EC145 will mark a new era in police air support in the U.K." says Metropolitan police commissioner Sir Ian Blair.
The EC145s have been customised by McAlpine Helicopters, Eurocopter's U.K. distributor based in Oxford, and will replace three AS355Ns that the Met has been operating since 1993.
Sir Ian says that the aircraft have been designed and customised to meet multi-mission requirements. Powered by two Turbomeca Arriel 1E2 engines, the EC145 is capable of carrying one or two pilots and eight or nine passengers.
It has a cruise speed of 135 kts, an advanced night vision goggle compatible glass cockpit, digital autopilot for both single or dual pilot applications and an endurance of up to three and a half hours.
"The primary use for the new EC145 aircraft is surveillance but the flexibility of the cabin, its payload, range performance and the role adaptable mission systems, means the aircraft will be capable of many roles."
Sir Ian cites the integration of the Wescam MX-15 electro optic sensor, SkyQuest touch screen video management system and Gigawave digital video link. "The aircraft can operate as a very effective incident command and control platform. But, even when equipped in its specialised observation role, the aircraft still has the capacity to carry a further three officers or two police dog cages," he says.
The rear observer's workstation can be removed in 15 minutes and provide space for up to six additional officers in the main cabin. Sir Ian adds: "Even in this utility configuration, the forward police observer (seated in the co-pilot's position) still maintains control of the entire mission sensor suite and the rear cabin team have full access to all tactical radios and the fold-down screen to view any of the available infra-red or TV imagery."
The Met's EC145s represent the first fullscale use of the SkyQuest video management system in a U.K. police helicopter, he says. The system means that any operator, from any screen, can exercise the complete control needed for each specific mission.