People requiring crucial emergency support at night can now be transported to hospital by air ambulance for the first time.
The Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire Air Ambulance is now flying night missions after 18 months of preparation and training.
Previously the air ambulance went off line at 4pm from late October through to the end of February, but now its coverage will be extended to 7pm, increasing its flying hours by about 480 hours a year.
Both the chief pilot and deputy chief pilot have been undergoing extensive night-flying training and the crew completed their final training and certification in late autumn, which included the use of night vision goggles.
Since going live last week the crews have performed a number of airlifts after the hours of darkness.
The first night flying mission took place o December 18, when the Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire Air Ambulance attended a serious road traffic accident near Market Rasen.
Chief pilot, captain Paul Smith, said: “While night flying is challenging, it is a natural and necessary step for us to be able to provide round the clock emergency support to people across Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire.”
Chief Executive Peter Aldrick, said: “It is important for the charity to fund equipment and training to enable the crew to fly after dark as this will allow us to extend flying hours. This is especially important in the winter months, when there are many more road accidents caused by the weather conditions.
“The equipment and training was paid for by donations and we would like to thank the people of Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire for allowing us to extend our essential lifesaving work.”
The Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance has the technical capability to fly night missions but does not currently fly in the dark.