Given recent NTSB recommendations on safety in EMS helicopter night operations, emphasis on training flight crews in the use of night-vision goggles (NVG) has increased. Two companies offering that training who are exhibiting at Heli-Expo 2010 are Aviation Specialties Unlimited (Booth No. 2101) and Night Flight Concepts (Booth 1024).
Early next year Night Readiness will unveil its 3.0 Virtual Terrain Board (VTB) night-vision goggle (NVG) training aid. The 3.0 system will add weather, a “fly-through database” and dynamic shadowing to the capabilities of the company’s 2.0 system, unveiled for civilian use in 2007.
Nivisys Industries received the first FAA TSO-C164 approval for its NVAG-6 night-vision aviator goggle. According to Nivisys, it is the first night-vision goggle (NVG) manufacturer to apply for and also first to receive FAA technical standard order (TSO) approval. “Nivisys decided two years ago that aviation safety hinged on FAA-approved NVGs,” said Gary Higman, manager of law enforcement and homeland security programs for Nivisys.
Choices that air medical operators will make about investing limited resources in safety equipment are price-sensitive. For this reason, enhanced-vision systems without night-vision goggles’ expensive recurrent training requirements may be seen as a more viable alternative by many EMS operators. However, in addition to choosing NVG or EVS, some HEMS operators are flying with both.
Growing interest from helicopter operators wanting to use night-vision goggles (NVGs) is spurring demand for better training as well. Feedback from long-time NVG users demonstrated that they improve safety, but lessons from the field also highlight the need to use the technology with caution.
Since EASA certified the first night-vision image system on a civil helicopter (see AIN, September 2007), several European operators have expressed interest in or have started to adopt night-vision goggles (NVGs). Eurocopter reports it has begun testing for a German operator. No doubt, newcomers will draw from the experiences of two major European rescue operators–Sécurité Civile and Rega.
The civil night-vision goggle market is booming for emergency medical service (EMS) and law enforcement applications, but significant regulatory barriers could limit new entrants into the market and restrict the export of the most popular NVGs.
Eurocopter will make its EC 145 available with certified night-vision goggle (NVG) capability in Europe, Canada and the U.S. The NVG configuration will be available for new helicopters and as a retrofit for those already in service. Eurocopter said it plans to extend NVG capability to the EC 135 next and to other models “on customer request.”
Eurocopter announced recently that the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has certified the EC 145 for civil night-vision goggle (NVG) operations, and in doing so, according to Eurocopter, making it the first OEM to offer commercial helicopter NVG capabilities from the factory. Various retrofits have been available to operators for a number of years.
Israel’s Elbit Systems (Chalet A332) has won contracts to supply its aviator’s night vision imaging system/head-up display (ANVIS/HUD) for the helicopters of two more as yet undisclosed NATO countries.