It’s one thing leaving work in the dark, but what about those who work in it?

Emergency medical charity, Magpas Air Ambulance, provide advanced medical care to patients in life-threatening emergencies every day and night, 365 days a year. Our team respond to these incidents via helicopter and rapid response vehicle and, for the flight crew who fly in the hours of darkness, it’s a very different experience to working in daylight.

Magpas Air Ambulance Pilot Capt. Chris Sherriff explains, “For HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Services), there’s an enormous difference between flying during the day and at night. As you’ve probably guessed, the main issue is the lack of visibility: you can’t see wires or obstacles on the ground very well and a lot more work has to go into finding our landing sites before we can even take off.

“During the day, when that emergency call comes in we get up in the aircraft as quickly as we can and choose our landing site when we’re overhead. We can see where the patient is, and if there are any obstacles – both in the air, such as wires, or on the ground like large ditches or tall fences that we can avoid to make it easier for the medical team to reach our patient. However when it’s dark, as it’s so much harder to see, we have to spend a little more time pre take-off to identify a primary and secondary landing site. This is important in case we get to our first site and realise, for example, there’s a fair in town that day.”

The Magpas Air Ambulance flight crew, made up of a Pilot and Technical Crew Member on every shift, have many procedures and rules in place to mitigate any challenges and keep everyone safe. This includes rigorous night flying training with yearly reviews and learning how to use and fly in night vision goggles.

When explaining what it’s like to wear these, Chris describes, “They’re amazing. The technology is really advanced and when you look through them pitch black becomes as clear as day! When you wear them however, the goggles with their battery pack alone weigh around 1kg, and they attach to our helmets, so when we do fly with them it’s like strapping two bags of sugar to your head! Each set of night vision goggles also cost up to £20,000 but with the capability they give us, it’s so worth it. Between them and the technology we have in front of us in the cockpit of our AW169 helicopter, it’s a joy to fly at night.

“It’s generally smoother and the smaller aircrafts are no longer about; it’s us, the other emergency services and the airlines in the skies – and we’re ready to get the Magpas Air Ambulance medics to the sickest patients wherever they are, and ultimately help save lives.”

Magpas Air Ambulance is a charity that relies on generous public donations to continue saving lives 24/7. To find out how you can keep us flying this Christmas, visit

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