Essex & Herts Air Ambulance (EHAAT) has extended its Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) operations to include night missions.
The charity offers a 24-hour pre-hospital critical care service to patients in Essex, Hertfordshire and the surrounding area. However, previously, the charity could only respond to missions at night with its rapid response vehicles (RRVs), despite the AW169 helicopter located at its North Weald airbase being a night capable aircraft.
To increase its operational capability, the HEMS teams at EHAAT undertook Night Vision Imaging System (NVIS) training.
The crew use night vision goggles (NVGs) to fly at night, which are calibrated to meet the specific vision requirements of each individual and are attached to the front of their flight helmets. The NVGs worn by the pilots are binocular, with two tubes, one per eye, that enhance the available light. This allows the pilots to see obstructions such as wires, pylons and buildings while flying in darkness, and enables them to land in areas that are unlit.
The pre-hospital care doctor and critical care paramedic use a monocular single tube NVG which provides them with situational awareness during landing.
Paul Curtis, Aviation and Operations Director for EHAAT, said: “The use of NVIS by pilots will now allow us to respond to HEMS missions by helicopter at night, rather than deploying the RRV. This is a very exciting new development to the life-saving service provided by the charity. Flying at night enables EHAAT to respond faster, delivering our critical care team to the incidents at which they are needed the most.”