Dorset Police chiefs have defended the use of their helicopter, one of the most expensive air support schemes in the country.

A professional pilot from Cranborne complained to the Daily Echo about regularly seeing the police helicopter out in the countryside.

And Dorset Police Authority experts have also questioned whether it’s worth the cost.

Mike White said: “I am astonished in these austere days to see it flying on a daily basis around the deserted, criminal-free Dorset countryside.

Where's the helicopter been? Click for a list of flights with reason for each one...

“It’s clearly just burning up hours. I noted on one occasion last summer that it spent the duration of my golf round at Rushmore Park Golf Club in a high hover over the course.

“I can well understand the necessity for these expensive pieces of equipment, paid for by the taxpayer, in London or Manchester – but Sixpenny Handley?”

A Dorset Police spokesperson said the helicopter acted as an ‘eye in the sky’ and from January 2010 to January 2011 flew on 894 occasions, attending 1,380 incidents.

Taking off from headquarters, it can be at the scene of an incident anywhere in the force area in approximately 12 minutes, says the force.

It assists officers on the ground searching for criminals or missing people, helps to contain incidents and drops in experts.

The spokesman added: “In open countryside it takes 450 man hours to carry out a good ground search of one square mile at an approximate cost of £10,000.

“The helicopter can search the same area in 12 minutes at an approximate cost of £250.”

Last month, faced with the lowest Home Office funding in the country, Dorset’s Chief Constable Martin Baker announced the force chopper would be flying less to save £250,000.

He has also expressed support for joining a national police air support scheme after the 2012 Olympics, saving Dorset around £1million.

Janet Dover, a member of the Dorset Police Authority, said police chiefs faced a big decision, adding: “If we can save money and still be covered by a helicopter to the same level of service, that’s got to be looked at very seriously.”