Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire Air Ambulance is now available to offer crucial emergency support in the winter rush hours – something it has not been able to do in the past.
In the last week the Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire Air Ambulance crews have gone live with their night flying operations, they have performed a number of airlifts after the hours of darkness following the green light by the Civil Aviation Authority.
The crew have been working on night flying operations for the last 18 months. Both the Chief Pilot and Deputy Chief Pilot have extensive night-flying experience. The crew completed their final training and certification in late autumn, which including the use of Night Vision Goggles (NVGs) .
During the past 12 months, the charity has seen a steady increase on the number of medical emergencies that it attends; a pattern that is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
Prior to night flying, the Air Ambulance went off line at 4pm from late October through to the end of February, losing three vital hours of emergency support. This year, winter operations have now increased to cover these three hours allowing the helicopter emergency medical service to continue after dark between the hours of 4pm and 7pm. This offers a greatly improved service; extending its flying hours by approximately 480 hours a year.
Chief Pilot, Captain Paul Smith, said: “We have undergone very rigorous training and the charity has provided the aircraft with the best possible equipment to enable safe flight during darkness.
“While night flying will be challenging, it is a natural and necessary step for us to be able to provide round the clock emergency support to people across Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire.”
In order to fly at night, the MD902 Explorer helicopter had to be fitted with special instruments and equipment including a radar altimeter and night sun technology for use with NVGs. The Air Ambulance then had to get approval from the Civil Aviation Authority and Medical Aviation Services.
The first night flying mission took place on December 18, when the Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire Air Ambulance attended a serious road accident near Market Rasen. The pilot flew and landed the helicopter using NVGs, to enable an extended skills medic to be on scene and deliver specialist skills to the patients.
Peter Aldrick, Chief Executive said: “It is important for the charity to fund equipment and training to enable the crew to fly after dark as this will allow us to extend flying hours. This is especially important in the winter months, when there are many more road accidents caused by the weather conditions.
“The equipment and training was paid for by donations and we would like to thank the people of Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire for allowing us to extend our essential lifesaving work.”