Concerned by mounting losses in emergency medical services (EMS) flights, the NTSB has added the safety of such flights to its 2009 Most Wanted List of Safety Improvements.
Safety of emergency medical services flights
Change is coming to the helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) industry, and once the dust settles there could be fewer providers flying fewer helicopters in a more costly and highly regulated environment.
Due to a high number of fatal aeromedical accidents over the past year, the NTSB yesterday announced it will hold a public hearing on the safety of helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) operations. The three-day hearing will begin on February 3 at the NTSB’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The European helicopter safety team (Ehest) released the preliminary results of the first European-wide helicopter accident study on October 13, during a conference in Cascais, Portugal. The Ehest is now transitioning from analysis to the development of an action plan. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce the helicopter accident rate by 80 percent by 2016, consistent with the goals of the international helicopter safety team (IHST).
Although the number of general aviation accidents last year was the lowest total since record keeping began in 1938, the NTSB noted that the accident rate increased slightly from 6.33 accidents per 100,000 flight hours in 2000 to 6.56 accidents last year.
Last month’s annual meeting of the Association of Air Medical Services was its usual low-key success as some 2,500 aeromedical professionals, a record number, assembled in the Kansas City (Mo.) Convention Center for three days of conferences and trade show exhibition.
General aviation fatalities dropped 30 percent last year, to 491 from 703 in 2006, according to the NTSB. But the total number of general aviation accidents was higher, climbing to 1,631 in 2007 from 1,518 in 2006. The total number of accidents includes 20 U.S.-registered aircraft mishaps that occurred outside the U.S., its territories or possessions.
Eurocopter AS 350B2, South Padre Island, Texas, Feb. 5, 2008–The ATP-rated pilot-in-command, a flight nurse and a paramedic were killed when the EMS helicopter, operated by Metro Aviation, crashed into the water while maneuvering for approach in night VMC.
If all flights took place in flawless conditions, in ideal weather and with perfectly designed aircraft that are maintained to impossibly impeccable standards and flown by only the most skilled of pilots, there would still be accidents.
Bell 407, Newberry, S.C., July 13, 2004–The NTSB blamed the EMS helicopter accident on the pilot’s failure to maintain terrain clearance as a result of fog conditions. A contributing factor was inadequate weather and dispatch information relayed to him.