The FAA has conducted a review of accidents involving commercial emergency medical services (EMS) helicopters between January 1998 and December last year. It offers evidence that controlled flight into terrain (CFIT), inadvertent flight into IMC and lack of operational control were predominant factors, particularly at night and in low visibility. “Of the 27 fatal helicopter EMS accidents, 21 occurred during night operations. Of those, 16 originated under VFR after the pilots inadvertently flew into IMC, resulting in a CFIT accident.”
The report reveals that inadequate risk assessment and management deficiencies may have contributed to many of these accidents. It calls on helicopter EMS operators to emphasize a safety culture within their organization “by applying basic system safety attributes and risk-management techniques to operations.”
The FAA advised operators to apply risk-assessment strategies for each EMS flight they undertake. The full report, which also offers templates to help them implement these strategies, is available at www.faa.gov/library/manuals/examiners_inspectors/8000/media/n8000-301.doc.