Suffolk: East Anglian Air Ambulance will save more lives after being granted permission to fly at night

The East Anglian Air Ambulance has been given permission for night flying

The East Anglian Air Ambulance has been given permission for night flying - Credit: Archant

A life-saving air ambulance charity has made history after it was granted permission to fly helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) missions at night.

The East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) and its aircraft operator Bond Air Services has become the first dedicated air ambulance using its own helicopter in England and Wales to be given the green light to fly at night following an 18-month campaign.

The charity, which covers Suffolk, Norfolk, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire, started flying to incidents which happen during the hours of darkness using Night Vision Imaging Systems (NVIS) on Monday after it was granted a licence by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA),

Tim Page, chief executive of EAAA, said: “We are all extremely proud to be able to say that EAAA is the first dedicated air ambulance in the country to be granted permission to fly at night but, above all, this is great news for the people of East Anglia as there is evidence that this development in operations will mean that more lives will be saved across the region.”

The charity believes that it will be able to attend around 30% more missions, helping an estimated 300 more patients a year now it is able to operate in the dark as well as daylight hours. The night-flying enabled aircraft, a Eurocopter EC135T2, which will be based at Cambridge, is expected to operate until about midnight, with the other air ambulance, which can operate in daylight hours, flying from its base at Norwich International Airport.

Later this year, the charity will take delivery of a further night capable helicopter which is slightly larger than the one currently in operation and will allow them to carry up to two patients if required.

The current night capable helicopter based at Cambridge Airport will be relocated to Norwich, giving the charity the option of operating two helicopters at night should the service be required.

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Mr Page said: “It has been a concern of the charity for a long time that patients who become ill or injured during daylight hours have been able to benefit from a service which has not been available to those who are involved in incidents and accidents in the dark.

“Many people have worked hard to resolve this problem and we are all extremely pleased that, no matter when someone needs our skilled crew to help them, our EAAA air ambulance, will be available.”

The night-flying aircraft will contain a crew of three – pilot, critical care paramedic and doctor in the back – who will in effect “get the emergency room to the patient”.

EAAA is sent to incidents by the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) which has the responsibility of deploying the air ambulance to patients who need assistance from the highly skilled crews aboard the aircraft.

The ability to send these expert teams to incidents which occur at night, as well as during the day, is going to be of great benefit to the service.