East Anglia: Air ambulance set to start night operations
09:00 08 February 2013
THE region’s air ambulance service is set to be “massively transformed” after receiving confirmation that it can now start carrying out night rescues.
The East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) has now been told that the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has approved one of its aircraft for night vision goggles (NVG) operations to ground level.
At present, no air ambulance service in the UK is able to operate helicopter emergency medical service flights at night. If there is a serious accident or medical emergency during the night, the emergency services must rely on land-based vehicles.
Last summer emergency helicopter providers Bond took delivery of a new EC135 for use by EAAA. Upon delivery, the aircraft was not certified to fly using NVG but Bond’s design and completions department has undertaken the necessary design, certification, installation and testing work to modify and equip the aircraft for night operations.
Jeremy Liber, director of design and completions at Bond, said: “We believe that this is the first time in the UK that an air ambulance aircraft has been equipped for NVIS operations and we are very proud that Bond was able to draw on extensive in-house expertise to make these modifications and obtain EASA approval.
“We now very much look forward to this technology being used for live, life-saving missions.”
EAAA communications director Diana Jakubowska said the confirmation was “the most absolutely brilliant news”.
She said: “It means we have now got permission to start training and very, very shortly start attending accidents by helicopter in the hours of darkness – which would be the first service in the country to do so.
“We are hoping to start operation certainly by the end of the month but if the weather is bad and we can’t fly at night to train it’s going to push it back. This will massively transform the service.”
She said that night flying could see the number of calls the service responds to go up by a third and it was now more important than ever for the public to keep supporting and fundraising for the charity, which receives no government money.