Congressmen Continue Push for Safer Helo Fuel Tanks

 - July 6, 2020, 4:23 PM

Two Colorado congressman are continuing push for mandatory crash resistant fuel systems (CRFS) in all helicopter air ambulances. Democrats U.S. Reps. Joe Neguse (CO-02) and Ed Perlmutter (CO-07) renewed their call for their colleagues to pass Safe Helicopters Now Act, which provides operators who install the safer fuel systems with offsetting tax credits. Those systems are already required in new-production helicopters effective April 5, 2020, under the provisions of the 2018 FAA reauthorization. 

The congressmen introduced their bill last year at the beginning of the current congressional session and made their latest appeal on the fifth anniversary of the July 3, 2015 crash of an Air Methods Airbus AS350B3e shortly after takeoff from the Summit Medical Center Heliport in Frisco, Colorado.

The pilot died as the result of his injuries and the two flight nurses were severely injured. Paramedic/flight nurse David Repsher sustained burns over 90 percent of his body while paramedic/flight nurse Mathew Bowe sustained impact injuries. Both men are permanently disabled and Repsher has ongoing and significant medical issues. Air Methods and Airbus Helicopters shared the cost of a $100 million settlement related to the accident.

While the NTSB faulted features of the aircraft’s hydraulic system and the pilot Patrick Mahany’s actions as the probable cause of the accident, it found the aircraft’s lack of a CRFS contributed to the severity of the injuries by feeding a post-crash fire. 

Air Methods began flying its Airbus singles fleet with retrofitted CRFSs in 2018. Airbus Helicopters has offered a retrofit CRFS service bulletin for the H125/AS350B3e since 2016 and in 2019 announced it will also make it available for AS350B3 and EC130B4 models this year. Standard Aero offers its CRFS for a variety of AS350-series models, including the AS350C, AS350D/D1, AS350B/B1/B2/BA/B3, AS350B3e (H125), and EC130B4.

“I’m glad we’ve made progress to ensure all newly manufactured helicopters meet today’s fuel system safety standards, but there’s more work to be done to ensure existing helicopters are also equipped with safer fuel systems,” said Perlmutter.