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Night goggles show the way for transplant flight

AN Air Corps helicopter crew used night vision goggles to fly a medical team to Kerry for a transplant operation.

Beaumont Hospital's specialist Organ Retrieval Team were flown to Kerry airport, then transferred to Tralee General Hospital, in an eight-hour mission by the Air Corps Augusta AW 139.

Once the organ harvesting was complete the team were flown from Kerry Airport by AW139 to Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, from where they were transferred back to Beaumont Hospital.

The Air Ambulance mission departed Casement Aerodrome at 12.15am yesterday morning and returned at 8.30am. It was the 55th Air Ambulance mission conducted by the Air Corps so far this year.

Air Corps pilots are the only pilots in the State who have the capability to fly using night vision goggles. The Herald revealed last December that the Air Corps pilots were being trained in the use of the goggles by an American specialist company. They have flown more than 1,600 hours using the American-made goggles, which enable pilots to "see" in the dark.

The Air Corps chose US company, Aviation Specialities Unlimited as their supplier for 21 night vision goggles, pilot and crew initial and advanced training, goggle lab equipment and maintenance training. Their pilots used the goggles during rescue and ambulance missions, including flying a sick teenager from Cork to Baldonnel and on to Tallaght during last December's blizzards.

The Air Corps has completed training for 100 pilots and crew members. Eight pilots and 16 crew members have also completed advanced training.