I READ your article last week on the grounding of the Cambs Police helicopter with rising anger, and respectfully suggest that it should have said “Police choose to ground chopper in budget cuts” rather than “forced”.
The Chief Constable and the police authority had other money-saving options but clearly found our helicopter service a convenient sacrifice. This begs some important questions about what will become of the MD902 aircraft and its specialised on-board equipment.
Will it be mothballed? I am reliably informed that this would be extremely costly.
Will it be sold and, if so, can we know its resale value?
The on-board cameras, night sun and video communications system were upgraded about two years ago. Will this considerable cost be recouped in any subsequent sale?
The helicopter has provided an effective rapid-response service to all sorts of crimes and emergencies. Indeed, many citizens owe their lives to prompt launching from the Wyton base, such as a young girl plucked from the river at Wisbech moments before being drowned by the rising tide; a road accident casualty with critical head injuries conveyed from Colmworth to Addenbrooke's Hospital, a rider who was rescued from beneath her horse, which had fallen into a ditch near Toseland.
Many of these stories were covered in this newspaper, as was the announcement some time ago that the Henlow-based helicopter was to be scrapped. It appears that, since Chief Constable Parr's promotion to Cambridgeshire from Hertfordshire, the Beds/Herts helicopter based in Henlow has had a reprieve.
Cambridgeshire's citizens are the real losers. We will receive a much reduced (by at least 40 per cent), inferior service from helicopters based in far-off Henlow, Benson and Suffolk.
It's only a matter of time before we will be reading of tragedies and rising crime in our largely rural area caused by slower response times or total lack of air cover.
We have received a highly professional, dedicated service from our air support unit since 1997. How will this close-knit team be redeployed?
As a certain song says, Chief Constable et al: "You don't know what you've got till it's gone."