In 2006, Star Flight became the first civilian HAA flight program in Texas to fly at night using night vision goggles (NVGs). As this enhanced capability is fairly expensive, you might ask, “Is it worth the cost?” The answer is a resounding – yes! Below we’ll discuss why NVGs have been so enthusiastically embraced by everyone here at Star Flight and in the field, how they work, their limitations, and are there any new requirements in the landing zones (LZs).

First the big why. In a word – safety. Safety is something we take very seriously at Star Flight. It is no secret that the business we are in is a hazardous one. Making the NVGs an operational reality was expensive and time consuming. – We can now tell you it was worth every dime and every minute.

How do they work? Very simply, they take the available light from the stars, moon and ground and amplify it thousands of times (43,000 to be exact). Essentially they take the dark out of the night. Under a clear sky or overcast with some ground lighting, they are pretty good. Clear sky with a high moon, they are like daylight. However, if there is no light to amplify, under an overcast sky in a rural area with no ground lights, for instance, pilots can mitigate this problem with external helicopter lights. For the vast majority of our night operations, they are superb. We have already located individuals during night searches that would have been nearly impossible to locate without NVGs.

In 2016, due to Star Flight’s dedication to the continuing pursuit of utilizing the enhanced capabilities of night vision to improve our program abilities, we have begun the gradual transition to the use of white phosphor NVGs. White phosphor NVGs are superior to previously used green phosphor models because they provide more detail and cause less eye strain to the user. In addition, white phosphor has the same response command as green, while providing more contrast as well as the previously mentioned increased visual acuity. As a program, our long term goal is to completely replace all green phosphor NVGs with the new white phosphor models.

See below, an example of the view produced by green vs. white phosphor NVGs.


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Charles Brotherton
County Executive

Chuck Spangler
Program Director

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