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.
In recent months, Congressional leaders have held pre-election hearings on a number of aviation issues. So far, these gatherings have made a lot of headlines but produced little in the way of tangible results.
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).
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recently released a proposed set of rules prohibiting flight of general aviation aircraft weighing more than 12,500 pounds unless they meet stringent new security program and pilot and passenger FBI clearance requirements. In light of that proposal, it is interesting to note that in July the agency said it is drafting proposed rules covering security of repair stations.
There are many questions about how the TSA will enforce the proposed Large Aircraft Security Program regulations and how the agency will know if someone isn’t complying. Will a government official, for example, approach an operator and ask if he has complied with the TSA regulations before takeoff? Will there be a box on the flight plan form? Will air traffic controllers ask for TSA clearances?
Aviation deaths decreased from 784 in 2006 to 545 last year, according to the NTSB. Although nearly 90 percent of the 2007 aviation fatalities occurred in general aviation accidents (491), they still represented a significant decrease from the previous year (703). Marine deaths decreased from 800 to 766, and rail fatalities increased slightly from 774 to 808.
In the first three quarters of this year, both the business jet and turboprop segments saw an increase in accidents and fatalities over the same period last year, according to statistics compiled by Boca Raton, Fla.-based industry safety analyst Robert E. Breiling Associates. In the business jet category, this year saw four more accidents compared with the first nine months of last year.
After nearly 30 years with the FAA, associate administrator for aviation safety Nick Sabatini will retire effective January 3, the agency announced last month. In the post, Sabatini has overseen regulation and certification matters at the agency. He will be replaced by Peggy Gilligan, deputy associate administrator for aviation safety. Sabatini has been associate administrator for aviation safety since June 2001.
Those who don’t learn from the mistakes of the past are destined to repeat them. That’s why the FAA today announced the establishment of a new online safety library that teaches lessons learned from “some of the world’s most historically significant transport airplane accidents.” Many of the lessons learned from these tragedies are timeless, the FAA said, and are applicable to all pilots regardless of what airplane(s) they fly.
According to aviation safety consulting firm Robert E. Breiling Associates of Boca Raton, Fla., there has been a “considerable increase” in the number of accidents (both fatal and nonfatal) and fatalities involving business jets and turboprops in the first nine months of this year.