Air Methods, the largest air ambulance provider in the U.S., has agreed to pay $825,000 to settle a civil case filed last year by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) alleging that the company violated FAA regulations by operating a helicopter with severely corroded pitot tubes. As part of the settlement, Air Methods did not admit to any liability.
The suit stems from a 2014 FAA inspection of an Air Methods helicopter based in Tampa, Florida. According to the DOJ, Air Methods continued to fly the helicopter for several days after the inspection even though “the helicopter’s pitot tubes were severely corroded and crumbling to the touch,” and that both the helicopter OEM and Air Methods employees agreed that the condition of the tubes was outside the scope of acceptable condition. “Internally, Air Methods’ employees agreed that severely corroded pitot tubes ‘are way beyond acceptable’ and ‘indicative that our crews are not paying attention,’” the DOJ said.
“When an FAA safety inspector informs an air-ambulance company about a potential safety issue, the company needs to address it immediately,” said U.S. attorney Jason Dunn. “The consequences of not working cooperatively with the FAA to minimize safety risks can be disastrous for the crew and for those being transported while seriously ill or injured. This settlement reflects how seriously we take any regulatory violations that could create such unnecessary risks.”