Kent Surrey Sussex are marking ten years of becoming the first Air Ambulance charity in the UK 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, KSS have carried out 4,106 missions at night, treating 2,355 patients and flying for 2,000 hours. In that time their 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, 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.”
Nick Bramley, Chief Pilot, said “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 center. 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. 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.”