East Anglian Air Ambulance hopes to fly at night

The East Anglian Air Ambulance is bidding to operate during the hours of darkness.

The charity believes that extending its hours could help it to increase the number of missions it attends, and the lives it could help to save, by 30pc.

Many of the accidents and medical emergencies the air ambulance is called out to happen at times of day which can be anticipated.

The rush hours are busy times for car crashes, while in the evening there is likely to be more stroke and cardiac arrest cases.

In the summer, the East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) can cover these peak periods because it is light, but in the winter it is unable to because it does not currently have permission to fly in the dark.

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Chief executive Tim Page said air ambulances in Germany and the Netherlands which had introduced night flying had been able to attend around 30pc more cases.

He said: 'We have got the aircraft on order and that's been a big part of the battle.

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'We have to get Civil Aviation Authority approval but we are pretty confident of all the aircraft providers in the country that Bonds has the greatest existing capability in this area.'

In December 2011, the charity signed a new helicopter contract for the next seven years with operator Bond Air Services, which will mean it will get two new state-of-the-art helicopters by the end of 2013.

It is due to take delivery of a new helicopter in August 2012, which will be kitted out for night flying.

It is thought the night flying licence could extend hours of operation from 6am to midnight, and the plan is to start offering the night flying initially from its base at Cambridge Airport from September this year.

Once the second new helicopter is delivered at the end of 2013, the charity will reassess and see if it needs to also introduce night operations at its other base at Norwich International Airport.

Bond, as the aircraft operator, has submitted a detailed plan to the Civil Aviation Authority on how it plans to train staff and operate safely at night.

At the moment it costs �4.5m a year to keep the air ambulance running, but that will rise to �6m by January 2014, as a result of the extended hours and the two new aircraft.

And the EAAA will be hoping that people in the four counties it covers, Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire, will consider supporting its efforts to extend its cover.

Chloe Smith, Norwich North MP, said: 'As the constituency MP for the air ambulance headquarters, I know just how important their efforts are to raise awareness of the equipment they need and I fully support them.

'It's a major opportunity to proceed to night flying and it will be of great benefit to any patients who need that service.'

Magpas Helimedix, which is located at RAF Wyton in Huntingdonshire, is already able to fly at night in the region using the Cambridgeshire police helicopter based at the Raf base.

As well as flying volunteer medics and paramedics to 999 incident, Magpas also gets patients to hospital using the police helicopter.

Last summer the EAAA was able to extend its hours of cover by teaming up with the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance.

Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) pilots are scheduled to work a maximum of 10 hours on a shift, so by linking up and staggering their crew start times, both charities were able to provide a HEMS service from 7am to 9pm or sunset, right across Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Essex and Hertfordshire.

Both charities are planning to team up again to do the same this summer.

For more information about the East Anglian Air Ambulance, how to donate, or to join its lottery, contact the charity on 0845 066 9999 or visit its website at www.eaaa.org.uk.

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