NTSB Asks for More Oversight of Public Helo Ops

 - November 17, 2009, 8:57 AM

The NTSB has issued another set of recommendations regarding helicopter emergency medical service (EMS) operations, this time highlighting concerns with FAA oversight of public aircraft operators. The recommendations stem from an accident on September 27 last year involving a Maryland State Police Eurocopter AS 365N1 operated as a public medical evacuation. The pilot, two crewmembers and one of two patients were killed when the helicopter hit terrain 3.2 miles north of the Runway 19R threshold at Andrews AFB in Camp Springs, Md. According to the NTSB, the pilot “was hesitant to accept the flight,” due to an 800-foot ceiling and a zero-degree temperature/dew-point spread. “However, despite his misgivings,” the NTSB reported, “the pilot accepted the flight. The pilot remarked that he had just heard a medevac helicopter operated by a private company complete an interhospital transfer flight in the same area, and then said, ‘if they can do it we can do it.’” The NTSB recommended that the FAA seek legislative authority to regulate helicopter EMS operations using government-owned aircraft and that public operators implement flight-risk evaluation programs and formalize dispatch and flight-following procedures.