HELICOPTER air ambulance teams launched their first ever night-time mission in Essex after completing specialist training.

Essex & Herts Air Ambulance (EHAAT) flew for the first time in the hours of darkness on Saturday, January 14, after a crash in Southend.

Following treatment at the scene, the charity’s critical care team whisked a patient away to the nearby Southend University Hospital via a land ambulance.

The air ambulance’s Helicopter Emergency Medical Service teams recently completed night vision imaging system training, allowing them to fly at night to vital callouts.

The charity, which delivers a 24-hour critical care service to patients in Essex, Hertfordshire, and the surrounding areas, previously could only respond to missions at night by using its rapid response vehicles.

Chelmsford Weekly News: Essex & Herts Air Ambulance flies missions across the countyEssex & Herts Air Ambulance flies missions across the county (Image: Stock)

The AW169 helicopter, located at the charity’s North Weald airbase, is the night capable aircraft.

Night flying is a further step in the charity’s strategic aim to provide the highest possible standards of pre-hospital clinical care.

It is a landmark development for EHAAT, which will reduce its reliance on rapid response vehicles, which take longer to attend.

The move will also increase the charity’s ability to deliver its teams more effectively to incidents within the region - particularly during shorter daylight hours in winter.

To fly at night, the crew use night vision goggles.

The goggles are calibrated to meet the specific vision requirements of the individual and are attached to the front of the flight helmets.

The goggles 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 whilst flying in darkness, and enables them to land in areas that are unlit.

The pre-hospital care doctor and critical care paramedic use monocular single tube goggles which provides them with situational awareness during landing.

Paul Curtis, aviation and operations director, said: “The use of night vision by pilots will now allow us to respond to missions by helicopter at night, rather than deploying the rapid response vehicles.

“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.”