The East Anglian Air Ambulance has embarked on a landmark new era by taking delivery of a new helicopter capable of flying at night.

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The charity will tomorrow start training its crew in night flying, with the aim of becoming fully operational to fly in the dark by the end of the year.

If approved by the authorities, the emergency night flights will mean the charity can treat more people who become seriously ill or injured.

Tim Page, chief executive of the East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA), said: “Our move into night flying means that during the winter months when people drive to and from work in the dark, should an accident or medical emergency happen, we will be there, bringing the hospital emergency room to them, wherever they are in East Anglia.”

The move, which needs approval from the Civil Aviation Authority, would also be a national landmark in air ambulance operations.

While Bonds Air Services, which has the contract to provide the EAAA’s two helicopters, already provides a night-time air ambulance in Scotland, this is only able to fly to and from lit landing sites.

Other air ambulances have also been able to operate at in darkness using other aircraft already authorised for night flying, for example a police helicopter.

However, if approved by the CAA later this year, the EAAA will become the first air ambulance in the country to provide night-time Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS).

The new aircraft, Eurocopter’s EC135T2, was unveiled today and will be based in Cambridge, but will cover Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Bedfordshire at night.

Once a second new helicopter is delivered at the end of 2013, the charity will make a decision on whether or not to also introduce night operations at its other base, at Norwich International Airport.

While exact times of operations are yet to be decided, it is thought that the charity will at first concentrate on starting at 6am in the morning and finish at midnight.

For the full story, see tomorrow’s papers.

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