Public Hearings on HEMS Accidents Under Way

February 3, 2009, 10:50 AM

Four days of NTSB public hearings on helicopter EMS safety began today in Washington, D.C., amid calls by the agency and the industry itself for reform. Last month, the NTSB determined the probable cause of four recent fatal helicopter EMS crashes. Three of the four involved inadvertent flight into night instrument meteorological conditions (IMC), while one was attributed to loss of control during low and slow flight. VFR flight into IMC was cited as the primary factor for a Eurocopter BK 117C1 operated by Evergreen Alaska Helicopters that crashed into the ocean near Whittier, Alaska, killing all four aboard; a Valley Air Care AS 350B2 that crashed into the water moments after aborting a landing on a night flight to pick up a patient on South Padre Island, Texas, killing the pilot, nurse and paramedic; and a PHI Bell 407 that crashed into the Sam Houston National Forest near Huntsville, Texas, en route to Houston, killing the pilot, nurse, paramedic and patient. Additionally, the NTSB said, “The pilot’s failure to maintain control of the helicopter during an out-of-ground-effect hover was the primary cause of a December 2007 crash of an Air Evac Bell 206L-3 in Alabama that killed all three aboard.”

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