Known by many names, the Air Support Unit (ASU) of the Met Police serves a key role in the policing of London, from small incidents where a suspect has gone to ground, right up to large scale planned, and unplanned events. From Royal weddings to the London riots, without their efforts, London would be a far less safe place to be.
From growing up in London, I have always been familiar with seeing it up there in the skies, and always wondered about all the intricacies of it. What its like to have such a view of an event, is it scary, exciting.... So many questions. The interest from childhood til now has really not dwindled, and since the social revolution that is Twitter, my interest has in fact grown.
Many will be familiar with lines such as 'is i99 available', 'can we get the ASU in please' from the many many ride-along style police documentaries that get aired annually in the UK. Of course referring to the helicopter. But so little is ever shown of what these guys do. Quick snippets of inside the chopper, soundbites of transmissions from air to ground, but that was it. Sky Cops changed all that, and finally we the public got an education, and my childish dreams got a boost. WOW!
Well today, just over 2 weeks before my milestone 40th birthday, and thanks to Twitter (and Google for the answer) I will be popping along to Lippitts Hill over by Waltham Abbey, and visiting the home of the one and only @mpsinthesky . A late evening competition run by the guys over there has allowed a small group of people to visit this weekend, and see what the place and people are all about. What an early birthday present!
Needless to say, I didn't sleep too well last night, and am awake stupidly early (for me anyway) on a Sunday morning. And for once it wasn't because I had a helicopter over my house, or a bedroom illuminated by the night sun. Which brings me neatly to one major gripe I have about the ASU and their night operations.....
What is it with the public crying and whining about the ASU being over head. Yes you might get woken up, and you might have work in a few hours. But given the colourful characters the Met are usually trying to locate at that time, its better than being awoken by an aggravated burglary, or waking to find your car missing.
They are not looking for a kebab shop that's still open, or bored so just gone for a fly (how cool would that be), resulting in them 'hanging about' over your house. They are working, FOR US ALL.
Tssk, some people are never happy.
I was however happy to read the recent article on the ASU though, which explained how productive and helpful it has been having @mpsinthesky on Twitter, allowing residents to know why they were overhead, and maybe in some way making people realise its not all a big jolly, its a job, and a damned important one too.
So that's my PRE visit part of this entry. I shall do my POST visit blog, hopefully with loads of pictures when I get back.
I'm sure I'm not the only excited person this morning, so I look forwards to meeting the others later.
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