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The North East Air Support Unit (NEASU) was formed in 1995 to provide air support for Durham Constabulary, Cleveland Police and Northumbria Police in the North East of England. With two aircraft, originally a Bolkow BO105 based at Newcastle Airport and a BN2B-20 Islander based at Teesside Airport the area from the Scottish Border in the north to the River Tees in the south, from the North Sea in the east to the Pennines in the west, was provided with a 'Rolls Royce' air support service with two complementary aircraft, on helicopter, one fixed-wing. The Bolkow 105 was later replaced with an AS355 Twin Squirrel and then a Eurocopter EC-135.

In 2005 the BN Islander was replaced at Teeside with a second EC-135 helicopter with a warning, at the time, that two helicopters would increase running costs by a significant amount whilst, at the same time, reducing overall capability. The statistics showed that both aircraft, helicopter and aeroplane, were, when fighting crime, achieving very similar results. Moreover, the aeroplane with its 'all weather' capability and much greater flight endurance was more suited to long range missions and persistent surveillance. Within two years, after the 2 year warranty for the new helicopter had expired, it was recommend to reduce the fleet to just one aircraft to save money, a helicopter based at Newcastle. Cleveland Police, some 30 miles south of Newcastle, objected to this proposal and the North East Air Support Unit was disbanded and then reformed with Durham Constabulary and Northumbria Police in 2009. Cleveland Police formed their own Air Operations Unit with an EC-135 helicopter.

'The BN2B-20 Islander served the communities of the North East, and further afield, with distinction from 1995 to 2005. Although the results when fighting crime, the 'hit rate', were comparable to the helicopter based at Newcastle the recommendation to complete a mid-life update with new, quieter propellers and a new electro-optical camera turret were rejected in favour of a new EC-135 helicopter'

In 2012 there was a further significant change with the formation of the National Police Air Service (NPAS). At that time the 43 police forces in England and Wales were supported with 31 aircraft, mostly helicopters, at 27 bases. Under the new 'national' plan it was decided to keep 22 bases with a central control room at Wakefield in West Yorkshire. This plan was then changed to 15 bases with 19 operational aircraft, together with 4 reserves to cover scheduled maintenance. Four of the aircraft, 3 operational and one reserve, will be the Vulcanair P68R, formerly the Partenavia P68 which first flew in 1970. Many regard this Italian aircraft with its old technology to be too small for police air support duties in the UK, due to its limited payload and a crew of just two, the pilot and one tactical flight officer. The most recent base closures are at Durham Tees Valley Airport, at Warton in Lancashire and at Wattisham in Suffolk. Time will tell if these base closures will have a significant impact, although a map of the 15 NPAS bases shows 'black holes' in the North East, in the North West and in East Anglia. Scotland is no better with only one aircraft, an EC-135 helicopter based at Glasgow."

'The end of an era. Present and former members of the North East Air Support Unit, now the NPAS base at Durham Tees Valley Airport, line up for a final photograph before the base closes on the 1 April 2017.'