England

Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire police air unit launched

Police helicopter crew at Shoreham airport
Image caption The aircraft are currently based at Shoreham airport and RAF Odiham

A unit which sees Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire Police share two helicopters instead of each flying their own has been officially launched.

The South East Air Support Unit (SEASU) received a single certificate from the Civil Aviation Authority on Friday.

The forces believe they can save up to £8m in five years flying two aircraft, based at RAF Odiham in Hampshire and Shoreham airport in West Sussex.

Hampshire Police previously used a fixed-wing aircraft.

The South East Air Support Unit (SEASU) has been operational since October but Saturday marked the start of operations under a single Police Air Operator's Certificate issued by the Civil Aviation Authority.

Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire Police Authorities approved the plans to collaborate last summer and the SEASU has been operational since October.

'Compromises inevitable'

Steve Cheeseman, of the SEASU, said: "The launch of the regional air support unit has been seven years in the making and we have come up with a model which we believe will effectively serve Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire.

"The use of helicopters gives police a real advantage over criminals on the ground and also allows us to effectively assist in searching for vulnerable missing people.

"They are an invaluable resource which through this collaboration we hope to continue for many years to come."

Sharing air support is part of a wider programme of collaboration between Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex and Thames Valley police.

Thames Valley is already part of the Chiltern Air Support Group.

Alan Price, of Sussex Police Authority, said: "Collaboration in which everybody has won and all must have prizes is always difficult to achieve.

"There must inevitably be compromises.

"The fact that all three forces and authorities have been able to reach agreement on an effective and efficient collaboration with both capital and revenue implications, which meets the requirements of all in the important area of air support, is a tribute to all those involved.

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