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89. Police Air Support Unit. Photo: Stuart Littlewood/Ricoh XR7/Ilford FP4 Plus
The police helicopter, a familiar sight in the skies over St Ives, is operated by the Air Support Unit based at RAF Wyton. The officer in charge is Insp Tony Yeldham (seen here with the remote controller for the cameras) with Sgt Paul 'Boxer' Bennett as deputy and Ian Hardy and 4 other PCs as full-time observers. Pilots are ex-army and supplied on contract. The ASU was set up in 1997 with a Twin Squirrel machine built by Aerospatiale in France. It has two engines for added safety over cities and a top speed of around 150mph. On-board equipment includes gyro-stabilised thermal imaging camera and daylight video camera with 32x zoom lens, 'Tracker', GPS, a 30 million candlepower searchlight and a 35mm stills camera (Canon EOS). It normally flies with a crew of 3 and has a built-in stretcher for evacuating casualties from accidents. The helicopter only responds to incidents and is not used for routine patrols. Although it could remain airborne for up to 3 hours, average flight time is about 25 minutes.

All Photographs © St Ives Photographic Club 2001. Presentation, design & code © S.Horton