FAA Plans Helo EMS Rulemaking

 - April 23, 2009, 11:54 AM

Yesterday the House subcommittee on aviation held a hearing on helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) safety. The hearing sought to address the high accident rate, which resulted in 13 accidents and 35 fatalities in HEMS operations between December 2007 and October 2008. “Any accident is tragic, but the number of fatalities in 2008 was simply unacceptable,” said John Mica (R-Fla.), the ranking Republican on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. FAA director of flight standards John Allen testified that the FAA is planning a rulemaking for HEMS safety initiatives. “The best medical treatment in the world will not make a difference if the patient and crew cannot be transported safely,” he said, adding that the agency will focus on “strengthening operational control” and “developing a stronger safety culture in HEMS operations.” Representative James Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the committee, said that although the FAA has increased weather and visibility minimums in HEMS Part 135 operations specifications, “this is not enough.” Helicopter Association International president Matthew Zuccaro testified, too, and said, “HAI believes the current EMS accident rate is unacceptable and that the recent events were preventable.”