IT’S the end of an era for the Wiltshire Police and Air Ambulance partnership as each prepare to go their separate ways next week.

The decision for police forces to share helicopters through the creation of the National Police Air Service combined with the decision by the European Aviation Safety Agency that joint role aircrafts are no longer permitted means that the 24-year partnership will come to an end on December 31.

Police observer Adrian Wells, who has worked with the joint police helicopter/air ambulance for 20 years and is now retiring, said: “In some respects I’m looking forward to the change and it will be quite exciting. We’ll miss the camaraderie, flying and working with the ambulance service and going out and helping people.

“It’s been very good for both the ambulance and the police and it’s been a very cost-effective way of operating an aircraft. It’s been the most cost-effective aircraft in the country.”

From mid January, Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s new helicopter, a Bell 429, will operate from the Police Headquarters in Devizes.

Manager of the police unit Graham Saunders, who got involved with the partnership shortly after its inception, said: “We’ve both known for five years that the actual unit was going to come to an end so we’ve had five years to prepare but it’s only in the last year that it’s struck home.

“I think people will notice a difference because from the police aspect the aircraft has to come from Bristol, Bournemouth or RAF Benson in Oxfordshire so there is obviously going to be some delay. Hopefully people won’t notice a difference in respect of the air ambulance because it’s still within the county of Wiltshire.”

To mark the end of the collaboration a get together is planned with some of the first pilots and past and present members of staff.

Mr Wells said: “From both of us we’d like to say thank you to the people that have supported the operation through the years.

“There have been a lot of people in the community that have supported the joint operation whole heartedly and it wouldn’t have happened without their support and I hope they’ll continue to support the air ambulance in the same way.”