While we are extremely proud of our safety record, we feel very strongly that we need to give our crews every tool to carry out their missions in the safest manner possible. NVGs help our pilots and medical crews at night as they identify rural landing sites and avoid obstacles. We don't fly if it isn't safe, but NVGs will help us deal with variables during a mission.
What are Night Vision Goggles and how do they work? Why do we need them and how will our crews benefit? What do our pilots think? What is involved in establishing a night vision goggle program and how much will it cost? We're glad you asked.
Night vision goggles (NVGs) consist of a lightweight binocular that is mounted to a flight helmet and powered by a low voltage battery pack. When used at night, NVGs provide the ability to see much further and with far greater clarity than with the naked eye.
Without Night Vision Goggles With Night Vision Goggles
Night vision goggles operate by sensing even the smallest amount of existing natural and artificial light. Complicated electronics intensify this light by thousands of times to create a visible image. NVGs allow aircrews to view terrain, avoid obstacles and observe changing weather conditions previously hidden in the darkness.
Both the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are strongly encouraging the use of night vision goggles during emergency medical flights. Mercy Flight's service area includes many areas of low illumination at night and the Great Lakes provide a rapidly changing weather environment for flying. NVGs enhance night flying safety with an increased ability to see and avoid obstacles and inclement weather.
The safety of our crews and patients is our highest priority and we believe that NVGs are a critical enhancement. Medical flights will not operate in worse weather conditions than without the use of NVGs, but the aircrews will be able to see the night environment in greater clarity and properly assess unfamiliar, rural on-scene landing sites.
"I have flown hundreds of hours using NVGs in all types of terrain and weather conditions and the safety margin increases considerably, especially when the conditions are less than favorable. The capability of bringing a daylight type view to a dark night is incredible. Once they have flown with these goggles at night, I have not met a pilot who would ever want to fly without them."- Marc Boies, Mercy Flight Pilot, 20 years of flight experience, including 17 in the US Army with Blackhawks and Hueys.
Three sets of NVG's for each of our three bases were just the first step. Pilots and medical crews had to complete an FAA approved classroom program followed by significant night flight training. The helicopter cockpit lighting was also modified extensively.
9 Pairs of Night Vision Goggles = $97,000
Pilot and Medical Crew Training = $109,000
Helicopter Cockpit Modifications = $128,000
Safely completing Mercy Flight night missions = PRICELESS