Dyfed-Powys Police helicopter to stay in the sky
Fears the Dyfed-Powys Police helicopter would be withdrawn from service have been allayed after it was confirmed it will remain patrolling the skies.
The helicopter, which polices Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys, will be kept as part of a deal to join the new National Police Air Service (NPAS).
A number of police aircraft will be cut as part of the service.
The force's helicopter will be managed by NPAS from next year.
Dyfed-Powys Police's Police and Crime Commissioner Christopher Salmon said the helicopter, which searches for missing people, suspects and vehicles, would remain at its base in Pembrey, Carmarthenshire.
There were concerns that it would shut when plans to cut the number of police aircraft and bases were announced in October 2010.
The NPAS is designed to save £15m a year and the number of police aircraft is expected to be cut from 33 to 25.
They will be centrally managed by the new service.
Mr Salmon said the the new service would be "great news" for communities across the force area.
"This force covers a huge area - more than half of Wales - and policing locations so far apart brings unique challenges."
Policing the skies
- The police helicopter helps with searches for missing people, suspects and vehicles and casualty evacuation, transporting specialist teams around Dyfed-Powys's 4,188 square miles
- It gathers intelligence including using automatic number plate recognition and video
- A helicopter takes around 12 minutes to search a square mile at a cost of £160 - an operation that would take 12 police officers 454 hours at a cost of around £4,680
- In 2014, it helped recover property worth more than £120,000, locating 23 vulnerable and missing people, and transporting seven people with life threatening injuries to hospital
- It also played a key role, working with neighbourhood police teams, in closing down several drugs factories and supply chains
- Flying times include from Pembrey to Aberystwyth in 24 minutes; the equivalent road journey of around 64 miles takes around 112 minutes
The Dyfed-Powys Police Authority had opposed plans to remove a dedicated helicopter for the force area and also rejected the idea of a using a cheaper fixed wing aircraft.
The deal, due to take effect next year, will see Dyfed-Powys's own helicopter replaced by an Airbus EC135 helicopter owned and maintained by the NPAS.
Staff at Pembrey will be cut from nine to seven as the base is transferred to the NPAS.
The Dyfed-Powys Police force area will also be covered by bases at St Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan, Rhuddlan in Denbighshire and Halfpenny Green in Wolverhampton.
The new service will cost the force around £890,000 a year. The existing service cost the force around £1.1m in 2013-14 and is budgeted to cost around £1.2m in 2014-15.
A helicopter shared by south Wales and Gwent police forces, based at St Athan, will transfer to the NPAS on 1 February.
The helicopter for North Wales Police was transferred last January.