The National Police Aviation Service decided to replace helicopters with planes
But the fixed-wing Vulcanair P68 aircraft are not agile enough for urban areas
Now officers could offload the planes to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Police splashed £10million on four airplanes that proved useless for operations, it has been claimed.
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.
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.
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 Bisset, the chief operating officer of the NPAS, said it was restructuring.
He added: ‘The aeroplanes are providing support to operational policing as part of a blended fleet which predominantly includes helicopters. They have, and do, operate across both urban and rural areas and whilst based at Doncaster Airport do use other airfields.
‘The aircraft have some limitations which means they cannot operate without restriction at all airfields which was always anticipated. They can however operate in weather conditions which helicopters cannot. Since January 2020 they have been effectively deployed to 1300 incidents supporting police forces across England and Wales.
‘Recently, the NPAS National Board commissioned an independent review of the aeroplanes which identified that the aircraft have excellent endurance which make them particularly suitable for policing large public events, conducting missing people searches and prolonged vehicle pursuits. The costs of operating the aeroplanes are approximately a third of that of a helicopter in comparison.’