Today we are proud to be marking ten years of becoming the first Air Ambulance charity in the country to fly 24/7, 365 days a year, enabling us to reach more patients and save more lives.
On 29th September 2013 we became the first Air Ambulance in the country to provide a 24/7 helicopter service all year round when a team flew to a patient involved in a road traffic collision near Canterbury, treated them and accompanied them to hospital.
Since then, we have carried out 4,106 missions by helicopter at night, treating 2,355 patients and flying for 2,000 hours.
In that time our aircraft have flown approximately a quarter of a million miles at night, equivalent to flying around the Earth 11 times or travelling to the Moon.
Professor Richard Lyon MBE, our Executive Director of Research and Innovation, and Deputy Medical Director, says: “Accidents don’t stop happening when the sun sets. In fact, some of our most serious incidents occur in the hours of darkness. In 2012, we undertook an innovative simulation study that suggested that patients across our region could benefit from our life-saving medical intervention every night.
“Based on this result, we became the first air ambulance charity in the UK to fly 24/7, 365 days a year, using the most advanced systems at the time with a new state of the art helicopter, two pilots and the entire medical crew using night vision goggles. This allowed us to deliver the same quality of rapid critical care by air to all of our KSS patients, regardless of the time of day.
“I’m immensely proud to have led this initial research, been one of the first doctors to fly at night and still be with KSS today continuing to see on a daily basis that lives are being saved, 24 hours a Today day, all thanks to our ability to night fly and to the generosity of our fantastic and loyal supporters.”
Night Flying Facts:
- Our pilots and clinical teams use military-grade night vision goggles when operating at night.
- Flying at night is more complex and requires additional time for flight planning. We aim to be airborne in no more than 15 minutes at night, compared to within five minutes during the day.
- Google Earth is used to help select landing sites, as well as specialist mapping systems which show where hazards such as overhead wires or covered reservoirs are located.
- There are over 180 sites known to us that are safe for us to used, covering most towns and villages in Kent, Surrey and Sussex. We look for sites that are as big as possible, with a minimal slope, good surface and good access in and out to enable the crew to bring a patient back safely to the aircraft.
- At night we use a powerful white light underneath the aircraft to illuminate the landing site as we approach to ensure it is clear and safe to land.
Nick Bramley, our Chief Pilot, says: “Flying at night is more challenging than flying by day. Vision and depth perception are both reduced and it requires a lot more concentration because everything is different. It’s a subtle difference, just as driving a car by night feels different.
“There are two aspects to night flying at KSS. The first is conventional flying but at night, which requires more concentration. That’s the type of flying we do when flying into a hospital or major trauma centre.
“When we are out flying to a patient we use night vision goggles and the night vision instrumentation system (NVIS). That’s much more challenging and something that most pilots would not experience in their career. It’s unique to the military, air ambulances and the police.
“When pilots join KSS they go through a NVIS course, so they join us fully qualified to fly day or night. They then undergo intensive training over several months to develop those skills.”
David Wright, HEMS Paramedic and Operational Support Director, was part of the first crew to attend a patient at night by helicopter.
David recalls: “Without doubt, we were able to be with the patient and deliver our life-saving care more quickly by air. Looking back, it’s nice to have been part of the team that delivered this innovation.”
“Previously there were patients that could not receive such a swift response from our service at night using our response vehicles, due to the geography of our region. To have a system that meant we could deliver the same service regardless of the time of day was great step forward.”
KSS continues to take pride in its world-leading reputation for research and innovation which ensures we can continue to provide the very best possible care for our patients and our communities. We can only do this thanks to the generosity of our loyal supporters.
Heli Hike at Night: Celebrating ten years of night flying at one of our landing sites
On Saturday 28th October we’ll be marking ten years of night flying with a very special Heli Hike at Night fundraising walk at Mote Park, Maidstone, the location of one our pre-approved night landing sites.
Participants are encouraged to bring glow accessories and face paints to be ready to light the way.
The cost is £15 for adults, £10 for children and you can sign up via the KSS events page: aakss.org.uk/events