UK police chiefs ‘wasted £10m on surveillance planes that can’t work in built-up areas’

Police splashed £10million on four airplanes that proved useless for operations, it has been claimed.

The National Police Aviation Service (NPAS) decided to replace helicopters with four Vulcanair P68 aircraft costing £2.5million each.

But the fixed-wing planes are not agile enough for urban areas and cannot even land at most airfields because the runways are too short.

They cannot hover above the ground, which is a crucial part of policing protests or tracking a suspect. 

Now officers could offload the planes to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency so they are not wasted grounded in police hangars. 

The National Police Aviation Service (NPAS) decided to replace helicopters with four Vulcanair P68 aircraft costing \u00A32.5million each

The National Police Aviation Service (NPAS) decided to replace helicopters with four Vulcanair P68 aircraft costing \u00A32.5million each

The National Police Aviation Service (NPAS) decided to replace helicopters with four Vulcanair P68 aircraft costing £2.5million each

The fixed-wing planes are not agile enough for urban areas and cannot even land at most airfields because the runways are too short

The fixed-wing planes are not agile enough for urban areas and cannot even land at most airfields because the runways are too short

The fixed-wing planes are not agile enough for urban areas and cannot even land at most airfields because the runways are too short

A source told The Times: ‘Everyone is just really puzzled why they chose those planes when there are much more suitable craft out there. 

‘A plane can’t slow down enough to stay over a fixed area, they have to fly in a big loop, it’s just physics.’

NPAS typically uses a helicopters to assist England and Wales’s police forces with searches, car chases and counterterrorism operations.

But in 2015 Mark Burns-Williamson, the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner and chair of the NPAS Strategic Board, announced the purchase of the planes using Home Office capital funding.

Hailing the step a ‘milestone in the development of NPAS’, he said the planes would allow for operations in bad weather in which helicopters struggle.

They cannot hover above the ground, which is a crucial part of policing protests or tracking a suspect

He said: ‘This is an investment in the future of policing across England and Wales. While helicopters are very flexible there are conditions which they are sometimes unable to fly, such as heavy fog, if visibility is too badly affected.

‘These new aircraft are true all weather machines and can guarantee we can truly operate any time of the day, on all days.’    

But after becoming operational last January, an assessment report cited ‘performance limitations’. 

Scott Bissett, the chief operating officer of the NPAS, told The Times it was restructuring. MailOnline has approached NPAS.

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