how much does it cost to fly a police helicopter per hour

How much does it cost to fly a police helicopter per hour? how much does a police call out cost? Statistics on saving lives should be put into perspective and not just tossed out for their emotional impact. Newport Beach still attempts to justify its helicopters on the basis of saving lives when, in fact, their lifesaving history consists of pulling a girl out of the Upper Bay mud six years ago. There are now 13 helicopters in various cities and county government, and hundreds at the Tustin Marine Corps Air Station, enough helicopters to pull someone from the mud once every six years.

how much does it cost to fly a police helicopter per hour

We admire the county auditor-controller’s and treasurer’s courage when they questioned the value of the county’s $1.3-million police helicopter program. They are right. Low-flying, frequent-patrolling police helicopters waste money.

Several recent articles have included statistics from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department that are intended to convince the public that police helicopters are essential to saving lives and stopping crime.

We believe that the police helicopter promotional statistics are, for the most part, irrelevant hype. For example: The statistic “helicopters are first on the scene 62% of the time” is pure hype, because the helicopter does not provide any aid or protection, irrespective of when they arrive. They just buzz ineffectively overhead. Police officers in patrol cars give aid and protection, but police car achievements are not promoted.

Helicopter promotional material would be significant if it included available new data, not from the 1960s, that correlates helicopter patrol and crime.

For example, the March helicopter collision reduced Newport’s and Costa Mesa’s air force from four to two and thereby reduced the patroling. That reduction didn’t seem to make any crime difference. It didn’t make any crime difference in Santa Monica when they went from two helicopters to none.

The sheriff’s promotional data is intended to create an exaggerated psychological need for patrolling helicopters when the real need is small.

Since helicopters cost more than $400 per hour to fly, the county could save millions of dollars by simply using helicopters only for SWAT or lifesaving activities.

Police are deliberately not calling helicopters because they cost too much or take too long to arrive, potentially allowing criminals to escape, according to a damning new report.

how long can a police helicopter fly for

In its first independent study of police air support, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) said plummeting numbers of helicopters and bases were providing sub-standard responses to ongoing incidents.

It called for the current strategy to be drastically reformed or scrapped, as figures show more than 40 per cent of calls are cancelled because aircraft will arrive too late.

Criminals in some areas are taking advantage of the lower chances of being chased by air, with prisoners telling one force they believed “police no longer had ready access to helicopter support”.

HM Inspector of Constabulary, Matt Parr, said the National Police Air Service (NPAS) was being used less, costing more and not serving police as well.

“Police are using helicopters less and we don’t think it’s because of a decline in incidents where they are needed, but because it’s getting more and more expensive,” he added.

“The response is such that forces don’t think they will get a helicopter by the time they need it.”

He warned that there was no cohesive national guidance on what helicopters should be used for, despite 66,780 calls for air support last year, nor when other assets or search methods can be used more effectively.

Police helicopters take more than an hour to arrive in Cumbria on average 
Police helicopters take more than an hour to arrive in Cumbria on average (Alamy)

The inspection also raised concerns over the lack of a central strategy for drones, which regional forces are purchasing and using on an ad-hoc basis, with mixed results.

Police services operated their own helicopters regionally until NPAS was formed five years ago, in a strategy Mr Parr described as a politically-pressured “rush job” that left problems with where bases were situated, how demand is met and the funding formula.

NPAS aimed to make better and more efficient use of resources but since 2009, the number of helicopters has dropped from 32 to 19, and bases from 31 to 15 – with consequences for forces situated the furthest away.

The average response time in 2016 was more than an hour in Cumbria, and around 50 minutes for Dyfed-Powys and Lincolnshire, but only 10 minutes for the Metropolitan Police.

Inspectors said the variations were “mostly but not exclusively dictated by geography”, with little relation between the amount forces pay and the service they receive.

Funding has fallen by a quarter in real terms over the past decade, HMIC said, and the current model creates huge spending differences between regional forces that pay only for helicopters that arrive, rather than the calls they make.

how much does a police call out cost

The arrangement meant that the City of London paid just £2,600 in an entire year for two actioned calls for service, but the neighbouring Met paid more than £7.2m on almost 5,500 incidents.

The cost averaged out at £1,314 for each call where a helicopter was sent, meaning the spending per head of the local population each year varied dramatically in each force area, and the cost per flying hour has doubled.

“We suspect that as a result of forces’ perception of the unfairness of the current model, some forces may be seeking to reduce their use of NPAS even though this may not be operationally appropriate,” the report cautioned.

Mr Parr said that although senior officers might aim to save money by not calling helicopters, there was no analysis of how much is spent on using other resources instead.

The warning comes amid repeated calls from senior police officers for increased funding to combat the national terror threat and rising demand, while the Home Office insists further efficiencies can be made.

The fastest helicopter response times are in London (Getty)
The fastest helicopter response times are in London (Getty)(Getty Images)

Mr Parr said the number of flying hours had fallen by 45 per cent, but there was “no evidence to suggest demand has reduced” amid rocketing 999 calls and a rise in reported crime across England and Wales.

“They are cutting the cost by providing a substantially less effective service than when forces had their own helicopters,” he added.

“It’s cheaper [for the Government] than it was but there’s no evidence that it’s more efficient – it does less.

“The costs aren’t shared fairly between forces and we don’t think NPAS is financially sustainable.

“Its model of charging, the way it spends money, the way it has banked money, doesn’t look to us like it’s on solid ground.”

Although NPAS is meeting its own targets, Mr Parr said they were not “true measures of how it is supporting policing”.

He forecast “some sort of breakdown” with forces trying to pull out of collaboration, telling police leaders: “You need to sort this out pronto, because at the moment it is heading for real problems.”

Statistics show that helicopters are mainly used for searches and police pursuits or managing “crimes in action”, making them a crucial tool to track and catch suspects.

The report warned that no new helicopters have been purchased since NPAS was formed and many of those being used have passed their target working life, causing rising maintenance costs to keep them safe.

Mr Parr said that although the body had purchased four fixed-wing aircraft, “without a fully developed plan for what they’re for – they’re just cheaper”.

Mr Parr said his instinct was that having a “blank sheet of paper and starting again” would be more successful than trying to reform NPAS, but leaders said work was ongoing to update the service.

Chief Constable Dee Collins, who leads NPAS, admitted the shift to a national police air service had been “challenging”.

“To deliver stretching national efficiencies, we have sought to change the expectations of police forces about the role of air support in policing and to do so has been a difficult process,” she added.

“We look forward to working with NPCC and Home Office colleagues as we continue this journey and we hope to provide others that follow with a blueprint for national delivery.”

Mark Burns-Williamson, the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner and chair of NPAS, said drones were a key part of its future strategy and added: “Our pilots and staff provide an invaluable service, particularly within the context of national austerity imposed on the police service where running costs have been significantly reduced from £55 to £38m and are significant factors to be borne in mind.”

The Home Office said it had provided NPAS with the “capital required to meet their operational needs”.

“This Government has protected overall police spending in real terms since the 2015 Spending Review and,on average, forces contribute less than half a per cent of their funding to air support,” a spokesperson added.

“Whilst we support the use of drones technology, we expect police to act on the report’s recommendations and save money by purchasing expensive items such as drones collectively.”

HMIC’s damning report was released as the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) announced a separate investigation into the use of police helicopters during the Grenfell Tower fire.

An unidentified complainant, who lost several family members in the disaster, argues that their arrival encouraged some residents to remain in the burning block in the mistaken hope of rescue, and that the downdraft may have fanned the flames.

The IPCC has opened an investigation into the complaint, amid a criminal investigation into responsibility for the fire, coroner’s inquests and a public inquiry.

What is the most dangerous helicopter?

According to various sources, some of the world’s best, and most dangerous, attack helicopters include, but are not limited to: 

  1. The Russian Ka-52 “Alligator”
  2. The American AH-64 “Apache”
  3. The Russian Mi-28N “Havoc”
  4. The European Eurocopter (Airbus) Tiger
  5. The Chinese CAIC Z-10
  6. The Italian/Turkish TAI/AgustaWestland T129 ATAK
  7. The Russian Mi-24 Hind
  8. The American AH-1Z Viper

What is the newest attack helicopter?

There are various new attack helicopters in development, but some of the most interesting are the Lockheed Martin “RAIDER” and the Sikorsky-Boeing “Defiant”

We’ll talk more about the “Defiant” a little later in this article, so for now, we’ll focus on the “RAIDER”.

interesting helicopter Raider
Source: Lockheed Martin

Touted as a “next-generation light tactical prototype helicopter”, the RAIDER has been designed to carry up to six personnel, and carries a range of external weapons that will “redefine helicopter flight during the 21st century”.

This chopper is based on the Sikorsky’s Collier Award-winning X2 Technology, and features advances in fly-by-wire, flight controls, vehicle management systems, and systems integration.

Such innovations enable the “RAIDER” to operate at high speeds and also maintain low-speed handling qualities and maneuverability of conventional single main rotor helicopters. The prototype has been clocked at 222 knots (407 km/h) and can operate at a ceiling of 10,000 feet (3,048 meters)

Designed to meet and exceed the requirements of the U.S. Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA), the “RAIDER” could potentially be applied to U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps missions.

According to Lockheed Martin, “the X2 Technology at the heart of the Raider helicopter is scalable to a variety of military missions including light assault, light attack, armed reconnaissance, close-air support, combat search and rescue, and unmanned applications.”

interesting helicopters Raider
Source: Lockheed Martin

What are some of the most interesting helicopters?

And so, without further ado, here are some of the most interesting helicopters ever designed. Trust us when we say this list is far from exhaustive and is in no particular order.

1. The Boeing CH-47 Chinook is one of a kind

interesting helicopters chinook
RAF CH-47 Chinook. Source: Airwolfhound/Flickr

One of the most iconic helicopters of all time is the Boeing CH-47 Chinook. First flown in 1961, this tandem rotor helicopter is a true workhorse of the skies. 

Designed as a heavy-lifter chopper, each of its 60-foot (18.3 m) rotor blades rotate in opposite directions, providing counter-acting torque and eliminating the need for a tail rotor.

The Chinook is specially designed to be able to independently adjust each rotor to enable it to adapt to the weight of different cargos. She was a development of the older Model 107 (CH-46) and saw service in Vietnam transporting troops, heavy artillery, and other supplies where needed. 

Since then, this helicopter has proved to be an invaluable asset to many militaries around the world. She also happens to hold the record as the third-fastest chopper around — the lastest CH-47F can reach a top speed of just over 195 mph (315 km per hour)

2. The Sikorsky H-60 “Black Hawk” Helicopter is an icon of American airpower

interesting helicopters black hawk
Source: Lockheed Martin

First flown in 1974, the Sikorsky H-60 “Black Hawk” is another iconic helicopter. It also happens to be a pretty mean looking machine. Named after a Native American warrior, it officially entered service in 1979 as the U.S. Army’s latest assault/utility chopper.

Since then, more than 4,000 units have been produced and they operate for various armed forces around the world including Japan, Turkey, Israel, and Columbia, to name but a few. The helicopter became world-famous after the 2001 blockbuster film “Black Hawk Down”. 

3. The Russian Mil Mi-24 “Hind” is possibly one of the best military helicopters ever built

interesting helicopters hind
Source: Airwolfhound/Flickr

Built during the Soviet-era, the Mil Mi-24 “Hind” is one of the coolest-looking helicopters ever built. She was designed to meet the Soviet requirement for a heavily armed and armored transporter helicopter and has become one of the most iconic choppers of all time.

The “Hind” first flew in 1969 and entered service in 1972. It went on to serve in various combat arenas over the following decades. The Mil Mi-24 is powered by 2 Isotov TV3-117 series turbine engines, each pumping out an incredible 2,200 hp.

Her armaments can vary, but typically a “Hind” is equipped with a four-barreled 12.7mm Yakushev-Borzov Yak-B gatling gun improved through the installation of a 30mm GSh-30K twin-barrel, fixed cannon. Depending on mission needs, she can be fitted with a 23mm GSh-23L cannon in a powered turret. She can also be armed with machine gun pods, anti-tank missiles, and rocket pods. 

4. The Bell 222A was the helicopter used in Airwolf

interesting helicopters airwolf
Still from the 1980s series Airwolf. Source: IMDB

The Bell 222A might seem like an odd choice, given some of the earlier listings, but bear with us. For any American child of the 1980s, the Bell 222A is probably one of the most recognizable helicopters of all for one reason — It was the helicopter used in the highly-popular series Airwolf

It is sleek, dare we say sexy, and really is a lovely-looking helicopter. Designed for civilian use, the Bell 222A is powered by 2 Honeywell LTS-1010-650 engines. This helicopter has a range of 230 nautical miles (425 km) and a service ceiling of 12,800 feet (3,900 mt). It can carry a crew of 2 and has seating occupancy for up to 5 passengers.

5. The Soviet V-12 is often cited as the biggest helicopter to ever have been built

interesting helicopters homer
Mil V-12 at Groningen Airport circa 1971. Source: GFDL/Wikimedia Commons

The Soviet-era Mil V-12 (Mi-12) is probably the world’s biggest-ever helicopter. Known to NATO as “Homer”, this helicopter was designed, among other things, to transport ICBMs. 

Unfortunately for the V-12, by the time it was ready for service, its main purpose was redundant and it never went into production. The idea behind this monster-chopper was to transport missiles in secret to remote bases wherever and whenever needed.

She first flew in 1968, and was longer than a Boeing 737 and could carry more people. It could also carry somewhere in the region of 88,000 pounds (almost 40,000 kg) of cargo. 

As US satellites become more advanced, and ICBMs became lighter, the Soviets found it more cost-effective to transport them by truck instead. 

6. The Focke-Wulf FW-61 was the world’s first

interesting helicopters fw
Source: Born2flie/Wikimedia Commons

First taking to the air in 1936, the Focke-Wulf FW-61 is generally regarded as the world’s first-ever helicopter. Designs for it began in the early 1930s and were inspired by autogyros developed by the British company Cierva Autogiro. 

A working model was produced in the mid-1930s, exploring the use of twin-rotors with articulated rotor blades. Each rotor had three blades that employed cyclic pitch — a key feature of helicopter control.

Two full-scale prototypes were built and showcased but the vehicle never went into production. No known originals exist today, but a replica can be found on display a the Hubschraubermuseum in Bückeburg, Germany.

7. The Bell 47 was the first helicopter certified for civilian use

interesting helicopters bell 47
Source: Peter Bakema/Wikimedia

First taking to the air in 1945, the Bell 47 was the first helicopter ever certified for use by civilians. The chopper became a workhorse of the Korean war and beyond, and was made famous by the T.V. series M.A.S.H.

Based on the design for the earlier Bell Model 30, the Bell 47 was first approved for civil use by the CAA in 1946. It was powered by a single Lycoming six-cylinder piston engine, and 18 variants of the helicopter were designed and built over the years. 

Today, thousands of them are still airworthy. 

8. The Lockheed AH-56 Cheyenne could have been an excellent helicopter 

interesting helicopters ah-56
Source: Hohum/Wikimedia Commons

Another fascinating helicopter is the Lockheed AH-56 Cheyenne. Widely considered to have been a masterful piece of helicopter design, it never actually saw combat.

A revolutionary attack helicopter, it was once thought that it would revolutionize warfare forever. Sadly that was never to be.

She was developed to meet the United States Army’s desire for an advanced helicopter and was born out of a ten-year contract for Lockheed to prototype choppers. It made its first flight in 1967 and proved to have impressive performance and power. It had a top speed of somewhere in the region of just over 244 mph (394 km/h) and could be armed with an XM-140 30 mm cannon, various anti-tank missiles, and missile pods. 

A fatal crash, technical issues, excessive weight, and cost overruns, as well as a change in military planning, eventually led to the program being canceled. 

9. The Sikorsky-Boeing Defiant is another very fast helicopter

interesting helicopters defiant
The SB-1 is very fast indeed. Source: Boeing-Sikorsky/YouTube

On the cards to replace the aging UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, the SB-1 Defiant is one hell of a helicopter. Currently in its prototype stage, the SB-1 Defiant recently hit a major speed milestone by reaching 236 mph (380 km/h).

A compound coaxial helicopter, this impressive speed was made using only 50% of the chopper’s potential power. In the following months, it is hoped to really push the helicopter to its limits. 

Its manufacturers are confident it should be able to reach a speed of 290 mph (466km/h). This is well above the U.S. Army’s cruise speed requirements for its Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program. The Defiant is currently in competition with Bell’s new V-2380 Valor advanced tiltrotor, which has reached eye-watering speeds of 345 mph (555 km/h). 

10. The first jet-powered helicopter was the Aerospatiale SA-313 Alouette II

interesting helicopters SA-313
Source: Airwolfhound/Wikimedia Commons

Taking its first flight in 1955, the Aerospatiale SA-313 is a very interesting helicopter indeed. Developed by the then French state-owned Sud Aviation, various rotary designs were trialed before settling on the design used in the SA-313.

Although a very capable and fast helicopter, Sud Aviation decided to include a single shaft turbine from another design, the X.301G. This resulted in the Alouette II becoming the world’s first production jet-powered helicopter.

Adding to this interesting design choice, the helicopter immediately began setting records. It managed to reach an altitude of 26,392 feet (8 km) in June of 1956, when it was used to perform a mountain rescue in the Alps. 

The helicopter would go on to serve in many armed forces around the world, and more than 1,500 were built. It also became the first helicopter to be equipped with anti-tank munitions. 

11. The Bell AH-1 Cobra was the world’s first dedicated attack helicopter

interesting helicopters cobra
Source: + -/Wikimedia Commons

Nothing symbolizes pure aggression more than this, first-ever dedicated attack helicopter. The Bell AH-1 Cobra first flew in 1965 and would set the standard for all attack helicopters that would follow.

It was born out of the U.S. Army’s desire for a heavily armored and fast helicopter as part of its Advanced Aerial Fire Support System (AAFS). With its narrow forward fuselage, stub wings, and fighter jet-like stepped-up tandem seating, it was like nothing ever seen before.

Quite a few of its components were borrowed from the UH-1 Huey, like its main rotor, engine, and tail boom. The “Cobra” would first see action in the 1968 Tet offensive, where it performed perfectly.

The AH-1 is still in service for the U.S. Marine Corps today along with its younger sibling the Viper

12. Northrop Grumman’s MQ-8 is the first fully autonomous helicopter

interesting helicopters mq-8
Source: Northrop Grumman

The Northrop Grumman MQ-8 first flew in 2002, and it is the first autonomous helicopter deployed en masse. First used aboard the US Navy frigate, McInerney, the MQ-8 is an autonomous, unmanned, rotary-wing scout aircraft.

Arising from the need to replace the aging RQ-2 Pioneer fixed-wing UAV, the Navy required similar capabilities in a larger, unmanned, vertical takeoff launch and recovery scout. The Navy chose Northrop Grumman’s design, as it met the Navy’s need for range, endurance, and payload (125 NM/3 hours/200 lbs).

The MQ-8, also known as the Fire Scout/Sea Scout, has seen action in Afghanistan and Africa, and been launched from Frigates, Littoral Combat Ships, and Coast Guard cutters. A single Fire Scout set a world record in 2012 when it provided intelligence, surveillance, recon (ISR) coverage for 24-hours over the course of ten flights. 

13. The Bell UH-1 Iroquois (“Huey”) is one of the most iconic of all time

interesting helicopter huey
Source: Museum of Flight

First flying in 1956, the Bell UH-1 Iroquois (“Huey”) is probably one of the world’s best-known helicopters. Cementing its place in history during the Vietnam war, when people think of helicopters, the “Huey” is probably the first to spring to mind.

It is estimated that somewhere in the region of 16,000 military (UH-1Y) and civilian (Bell 412) craft have been built to date, and it is still in production.

Initially called the Bell 204, this two-blade main rotor, single shaft turbine-powered helicopter was designed to meet the Army’s need for a medical evacuation/instrument trainer/general utility helicopter.

While officially called the “Iroquois”, the moniker “Huey” came from its early HU-1 designation. Throughout its history, the “Huey” has seen action in many parts of the world, performing firefighting missions, humanitarian aid efforts, research operations, and search and rescue duties.

14. The Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey is awesome

interesting helicpters osprey
Source: FOX 52/Wikimedia Commons

First flying in the late-1980s and entering service in 2007, the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey is another very interesting helicopter. Combining the vertical lift capabilities of a helicopter, with the fast-cruise forward flight efficiencies of a fixed-wing turboprop aircraft, the V-22 Osprey officially went into development in the mid-1980s.

By 1989, six prototypes had been built, but the program had a serious setback in the early-1990s when the fourth prototype crashed. The Osprey was approved for full production in 2005, and by 2012, between 24 to 48 were being built each year.

The V-22 has greater speed, range, and lift capability over more conventional helicopters, and can operate easily from ships. This craft is very versatile and carries troops, supplies, weapons, and vehicles wherever they are needed.

It comes armed with 7.62 mm or 12.7 mm machine guns and can have a 7.62 mm minigun mounted on its ramp. Plans are in place to put a Gatling gun in the nose of future models, as well as, adding the capacity to carry air-to-ground missile launchers. 

The Osprey has seen action all over the world, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is also regularly used for humanitarian missions and has been used in Haiti and Nepal. 

15. The Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe is a very funny looking helicopter

interesting helicopters skycrane
Source: Mark Holloway/Wikimedia Commons

Another interesting, but perhaps lesser-known helicopter is the Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe. Also known as the Skycrane or flying insect, the CH-54 was a heavy load cargo carrier.

First entering service in 1962, its unusual design made it a very versatile helicopter that had various uses, including recovery, rescue, infantry transport, medical supply, and even armored transport operations.

Powered by a pair of Pratt and Whitney T73-P-700 turboshaft engines, the helicopter also came with a crane in the center of its fuselage. The helicopter cut its teeth in the Vietnam war and was widely considered one of the safest to fly. 

It was capable of transporting heavy ground vehicles, as well as containers, and parts for engineering projects like bridges and fortifications with its maximum payload of 12 tonnes. The Skycrane was officially retired from military service in 1991, but continues to be used for government and civilian operations. 

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