French Hems Debate Heats Up Around Second Crewmember

 - April 28, 2014, 12:35 PM

France’s civil aviation authority, the DGAC, has approved the idea of training medical personnel as helicopter emergency medical service (Hems) “technical crewmembers,” beginning October 8. This change should meet the EASA IR-OPS requirement, which France opted out of for two years. Most helicopter EMS flights in the country today are conducted by a single pilot. The idea comes from an association of French doctors who believe the additional cost and weight of a second pilot would be excessive.

In March, a DGAC official greenlighted the proposal but made it clear the authority must approve a training program. Under the new rules, the technical crewmember is needed when flying to an unprepared site to embark a patient. Helicopter operator Inaer France is already devising a course that includes the required tasks listed in an EASA document. The main items are “see-and-avoid” other traffic, landing site selection, assistance in navigation and enforcing safety measures during ground operations with rotors turning.

However, the SNPNAC pilot union has rejected the idea of having a part-time aviation person in the copilot seat. It has argued that courts would take an unfavorable view of an operator in the event of an accident. Most operators do not oppose the move but are concerned about liability. For example, an operator will not have any oversight on the second crewmember’s rest periods.