BC Emergency Health Services executive vice-president Linda Lupini tries on a $12,000 night vision goggles setup. (Katya Slepian/Black Press)

VIDEO: New night vision goggles on B.C. air ambulances could help save lives

$1.7-million investment will eventually outfit all four Helijet helicopters

A $1.7-million investment into night vision goggles for B.C. air ambulances could mean the difference between life or death for patients in remote parts of the province.

“Looking at the areas where we currently land at [where] we can’t land at night, we’re looking at 130, 140 more patient transfers and responses,” said BC Emergency Health Services executive vice-president Linda Lupini. Nearly 2,000 patient transfers each year are done by air ambulance helicopters. Ten per cent of those are emergency responses, she noted.”

“Eventually, we’ll be able to land in places we never could before [in day or night] and that will increase the numbers.”

Lupini made the announcement Thursday at Helijet’s hangar in Vancouver International Airport’s south terminal.

Helijet, which operates air ambulances in B.C., will share the cost.

CEO Danny Sitman said two air ambulance helicopters stationed in Richmond and one stationed in Prince Rupert are equipped with the night vision technology. A fourth helicopter will be equipped later this year.

READ MORE: Night vision for Rupert’s air ambulances

“By the beginning of June, we should have all the air crew up and running on this program,” said Sitman.

BCEHS aviation director Paul Bouchard said night vision would allow helicopters to land in places that require lateral vision, like valleys in mid-Vancouver Island, the Fraser Valley and up in Vancouver’s North Shore.

“Locations such as Pemberton, Whistler, Port Alberni… right now, flying visually at night [without the goggles], the aircraft must have lateral clearance of three miles on either side,” said Bouchard.

“When you try to go there at night, the valley is not that wide at the bottom,” Bouchard said, forcing the helicopters to fly higher. With night vision goggles, he said, the crews can fly lower and much more easily spot their targets.

READ MORE: Parksville heli-company to champion new medevac service

Being able to fly at lower altitudes will make the flight more comfortable for patients who are already dealing with pain and trouble breathing.

Paramedic Ross Hallaway said being forced to fly higher as a result of not being able to see at night is difficult with patients who are already having trouble breathing, such as premature babies. Helicopters don’t pressurize like planes do, so the air at flying altitude is all the air a patient gets.

“A 500 gram baby, their lung capacity is very small. Currently to do night flight we’d have to go up to 8,000 feet,” said Chute. With night vision goggles, the helicopter could fly at half the altitude, giving the premature babies, and other sensitive patients, more breathing room.

A lower flying altitude also helps patients with bowel obstructions, Chute said.

“You have trapped gas in there… when you go up, things expand so being able to maintain a lower cabin pressure is going to be very helpful.”

How it all works

The night vision goggles themselves use the same technology as the U.S. and Canadian military, Helijet chief pilot Mike Potter said.

The goggles “take a minute amount of light and intensify it in [the goggles], ultimately with a whole bunch of little mirrors,” Potter said.

“That image is then produced in the tube itself.”

Each night vision goggle and helmet setup costs about $12,000, Potter noted.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

VIDEO: May Day parade in Fort Langley

Crowds pack the streets to view 96th annual edition of annual march

Video: house fire in Langley Township

Monday morning fire spread from house to trees

Aldergrove family ecstatic over child’s recovery

Jaylene Prime and her family ‘pays back’ with juvenile arthritis fundraiser

Builder battling Langley Township looks toward Langley City

Eric Woodward said he has put out some feelers about ““the possibility of looking at some options”

VIDEO: Fire destroys legal grow op in Langley

Blaze also touched off grass fire

VIDEO: After the floods, comes the cleanup as Grand Forks rebuilds

Business owners in downtown wonder how long it will take for things to go back to normal

McPhee in boxing spotlight

‘Turmoil on 200th’ Pro Am Boxing event at Langley Events Centre

Fraser Valley Symphony ends 34th season

‘Romantic Rendezvous’ features Michelle Mares on piano on June 2

‘Find Your Fit’ at Aldergrove career event

Students and general community sessions set for Aldergrove Secondary

Couple survives being buried in mudslide on B.C. highway

The couple, from Saskatchewan, were en route to Nelson when a tree fell in their path

‘So grateful:’ Injured Bronco hockey player glad he’s alive, works on recovery

Ryan Straschnitzki was badly hurt in the accident: a spinal injury, broken ribs, a broken collar bone, and punctured lung

PHOTOS: Floodwaters rise and fall in Grand Forks

The flood-ravaged Kootenay-Boundary region begins to heal

Martin Mars waterbombers’ firefighting days are done

Wayne Coulson said his company still hopes to find a new home for the vintage aircraft

NHL playoffs weekly roundup

Vegas Golden Knights have done the impossible and have a chance at hoisting the Stanley Cup

Most Read