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St. John’s Life Line has recently equipped its four helicopters with night vision goggles (NVG’s). With training and aircraft modifications complete and 12 new sets of ANVIS 9 goggles, this new technology will help enhance Life Line’s longstanding safety record. Life Line has provided safe transport for 26 accident-free years.
The goggles, which cost $11,000 a pair, are a greatly needed navigational aid while flying in the dark. The helmet mounted NVG technology allows for safer operation in low-light conditions due to its ability to amplify light up to 6,000 times. NVG allows pilots and medical crews to see light that is not visible to the human eye. With NVG, it is easier to identify hazards, obstacles, find accident scenes and avoid high elevation terrain.
“We can see obstacles we couldn’t see before,” says Scott Michaelson, Life Line pilot and lead training officer. “Before, we only had the landing light on the helicopter to see things like trees, power lines and hills. Our solution was often to fly higher and approach our destination slower. On some hazy nights, we were forced to abort our flight due to safety risks.”
In order to use NVG technology, Life Line crews participated in a FAA-approved training program, followed by an actual night flight time experience using the goggles prior to utilizing them on night flight missions. Pilots were required to take five hours of ground school and five hours of flight training. Crew members also received training. All Life Line crew members are certified in night vision goggle use and will undergo on-going training and competency.
“NVG’s provide a level of safety we have never had, and we owe it to every patient we transport and the crew that provides the service,” says D.J. Satterfield, program director for St. John’s Life Line. “It’s just another way we demonstrate our commitment to excellence. When we combine the goggles with the expertise and commitment of our crews, we are positioned to continue that tradition for a long time.”
Life Line operates three helicopter bases throughout the Ozarks (Branson West, St. Robert and Bolivar) and also maintains a dedicated back-up aircraft that is available for use when maintenance is required on other aircrafts.