European HEMS Operators Voice Concern about Impractical Rules

 - January 3, 2014, 12:35 AM

A lack of understanding from rulemakers presents an impediment to the helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) sector, operators told the EASA at the agency’s rotorcraft symposium.

The output of information from regulators tops operators’ lists of concerns, according to Stefan Becker, head of corporate development at Swiss rescue organization Rega. Becker also spoke on behalf of the European Helicopter Association and the European HEMS and air ambulance committee. “It is impossible to read 900 pages in three or four weeks,” Becker said.

At the same time, the EASA collects a lot of data, Becker said, but operators do not see it factored in new regulations. “Our remarks are often ignored, which means the operational reality, experience and expertise are not taken into account,” he commented. Sometimes rules are inconsistent, he said, pointing to IFR minimums for HEMS as an example. Sometimes they are impractical. For example, a victim to be hoisted is supposed to wear a harness approved by the helicopter manufacturer. “But what if he or she already wears a rock-climbing harness? Do we have to put another harness on the victim?” Becker asked. In addition, a rescuer could be hoisted from a Eurocopter and later hoisted to a Bell. Does he need two harnesses?

Also in terms of equipment, Becker noted that certification costs impede installation of safety equipment. Rescue helicopters often fly in areas frequented by gliders. In Europe, the use of Flarm, a sort of low-cost Tcas based on GPS and radio, is widespread. Flarm detects a proximity threat, as long as the other aircraft is similarly equipped. Becker said Flarm would thus be a useful safety tool for helicopter operators to prevent midairs with gliders. However, certifying such a tool would create an unreasonable administrative and economic burden, he asserted.

An EASA representative said the agency is worried about potential Flarm inaccuracy, which could generate misleading information. He added that the EASA is working with an STC applicant to resolve the matter.