Essential for nearly a quarter of our missions, night vision goggles magnify ambient light thousands of times, allowing the Westpac Rescue Helicopter to land on unlit roads, in paddocks, and conduct search and rescue missions in the middle of the night.
First purchased by Life Flight in 2007, today it is hard for pilots to imagine flying at night without them. Pilot Harry, the Chief Helicopter Pilot at Life Flight, recalls:
For us pilots they are one of the biggest technological advances since the advent of GPS. Looking back to the time before we had goggles it is difficult to believe the extra risk flight teams were exposed to operating at night, especially with the Wellington region’s combination of unpredictable weather and terrain.
- Pilot Harry
The Wellington region’s varying landscape makes night flying challenging. From city to sea, rolling hills and mountainous terrain. At night it can be difficult to keep a visual reference to the horizon (a sense of what is up and down), and that can lead to pilot disorientation.
But Harry says the biggest risk is the wires -
"Coming into land in rural areas close to houses we know there will be wires somewhere. In low light they can be nearly impossible to spot. The goggles help us to see the structures around the wires, such as poles.
"The goggles provide a massive safety boost, enabling us to see the terrain and make sense of things. They are also hugely important when we fly search rescue missions at night."
New White Phosphor Night Vision Goggles
Currently, Life Flight has four pairs of green phosphor goggles - turning night into a green-tinged day. These were purchased in 2007 and, as you can imagine, technology has vastly improved since then. With your support, we will fund two pairs of white phosphor goggles.
Benefits of the new White Phosphor Night Vision Goggles include:
- Easier to spot hazards: provides enhanced image clarity and quality for our pilots and crew, making it easier to spot hazards such as overhead wires.
- Increased depth perception : improved ability to gauge depths when coming into land on challenging, uneven terrain.
- Improved low-light performance: Our pilots and crew can see more clearly when flying when there is very little ambient light available to amplify.
- Exceptional high-light performance: Pilots and crew can deal better with situations where there are variable levels of lighting such as flying near cities.
- Fully compatible: The new Night Vision Goggles are fully compatible with existing equipment such as helmets.
- Reduces eye strain: While green phosphor targets one set of receptors in the eye, white targets all receptors, resulting in less eye strain for the pilots.
Once they arrive at the airbase, our pilots and crew will undergo thorough training including an intensive ground course and a minimum of five hours' flight training. Then, pilots and crew will be closely monitored by instructors until they have built sufficient experience operating at night using the Night Vision Goggles.
We are so looking forward to receiving an upgrade to such an essential piece of equipment. This improved technology will further improve safety and capability for our crew, and are critical in helping them safely navigate to those who urgently need their help.
This year, community donations have helped keep Life Flight rescue missions going through the most difficult of times. The recent COVID Delta outbreak has prevented us from running many of our vital fundraising events, and we are significantly down on income.
Yet the need for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter has remained higher than ever. If you would like to contribute to purchasing the new improved Night Vision Goggles, your gift would be greatly appreciated.