Police Air Support – South East Regional Collaboration
The Hampshire Police Authority met on 20th July 2010 and approved the proposed Regional Air Support Consortium. That involves closing Hampshire Police Air Support unit.
Hampshire, Sussex, and Surrey constabularies have been working together for at least 18 months on a Regional Air Support Unit concept, using a fleet of two air assets covering the three counties. Many options were explored. It had been expected that the Defender would be retained and based at RAF Odiham.
In April 2010 it became clear that Surrey would need rotary rather than fixed wing for police work within Heathrow controlled airspace. The three police authorities have now each formally agreed to create a Regional Unit operating two helicopters (based at RAF Odiham and Shoreham, with a rumour of a move to Goodwood) which will fly 50% more hours than in previous years.
The ramifications for HPASU are that the unit will be closing around October 2010. The Defender aircraft will be put up for sale as agreed at the Hampshire Police Authority meeting in July. It is the intent that all other police activities at Daedalus will relocate elsewhere.
Police staff on the air support unit will be redeployed within the force; perhaps some will become observers on the helos. It appears the civilian staff on the unit will be made redundant. We hear that two civilian pilots have already secured other employment. LFA can only wish all well and hope that those who want to continue flying in one form or other can do so. If we can help with that, we will be glad to do so.
From an Airfield perspective it is very regrettable to lose aviation employment and the air support mission from the successful mix of activities at Daedalus. The question also arises as to who will operate the airfield for the MCA if that organisation continues to prefer not to do so itself.
Understandably, given the absence of further information at this stage, there are obvious concerns that a commercially-driven model of airfield operations (if that is anyone’s desire) could quite easily, intentionally or otherwise, price out much of the general aviation sector that has fought extemely hard to defend the airfield by retaining and rebuilding aviation activities at Daedalus in recent years.
Pragmatically, and in the absence of state-funding of some kind, our long-held position remains: that the long-term future of the Daedalus remaining an airfield (and not being developed for alternative uses) is best supported though an operating model which is a:
- Low-cost (not licensed, minimum necessary overhead)
- Viable (pay your way, one way or another – time, effort or money)
- General aviation and community airfield (not airport)
- Spanning SEEDA and DfT/MCA owned land (firstly operations, ownership later)
- Delivering Local benefits (Open space, “no-housing/idustrial estate development”, aviation employment, community use, strategic gap) which are valued and ‘credited’ as a tangibles delivered by the airfield with respect to rent/rates, grants etc.
- Operated to enable and support aviation employment and recreation at least cost
(rather than try to make the aviation infrastructure - runway, open space clear areas, taxiways, parking areas - a profit centre itself)