At night, the co-pilot’s role becomes even more important as they support the pilot with navigation, general situational awareness and providing a talk-down during the approach phase; reading out heights, speeds and rates of descent. They also assist in the setting up of the Trakkabeam spotlight that is positioned on Peggy’s nose. All the crew wear Night Vision Goggles (NVG) on their helmets, which amplify the available light to provide an enhanced black and white picture on a screen within each of the two NVG tubes. These allow us to land safely in unlit remote locations.

When a call comes in during the hours of darkness, operating procedures are slightly different. Actions that are easy to achieve in the day, take longer during the night and therefore the crew take more time planning their mission before they arrive at the scene. Having being tasked by the HEMS desk, the entire team assemble in the operations room. Using satellite imagery, they look for suitable landing locations near to the scene and check for potential hazards. They will already have searched the nearest pre-surveyed landing sites as a backup, just in case the location they have chosen is not suitable when they arrive, due to things like livestock or tall crops being present. Despite all the checks before departure, the crew still do a recce around the perimeter of a landing site at night using the Trakkabeam to ensure that they are aware of all the obstacles and they are happy to land.

We are extremely fortunate in Dorset and Somerset to have many hospitals that have the ability to accept our aircraft at night. This is a luxury that not all regions have and is a significant benefit to our patients. We continue to be extremely grateful to local residents for their support and understanding of the need for us to fly night missions.

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