FAA and Air Ambulance Services: Ladd Sanger Comments on Occupational Health & Safety Magazine Article


After reading the Occupational Health & Safety magazine article below, I have to say that the Federal Aviation Administration’s  (FAA) action is an excellent step in the right direction that will hopefully help address the disproportionately high Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) accident rate. To be effective, the reporting will have to include more than just number of hours flown. It should require at least the following information: time of day (or night), visibility, ceiling height, whether or not a patient was on board, and the nature of the flight (scene transport, hospital-to-hospital, etc.). With this information, hopefully the FAA, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and the HEMS industry can learn and understand why the HEMS accident rate is so much higher than that of corporate transport, the charter/tour industry and the offshore industry.

One more note: Since this article references a related article featured in Flying magazine, I urge you to read my partner Michael Slack’s comments about it.

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FAA to Collect Operating Data from Air Ambulance Services
Occupational Health & Safety magazine
July 31, 2013

The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 included a mandate to do this, with the first report to be provided to Congress by Feb. 14, 2014.

The Federal Aviation Administration has published a notice about a new information collection it is starting. Complying with the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, FAA will collect operational data from 73 helicopter air ambulance certificate holders and will begin providing annual summary reports to Congress early next year. The first is due by Feb. 14, 2014.

The law requires all helicopter air ambulance operators to begin reporting the number of flights and hours flown, along with other specified information, during which helicopters they operate were providing air ambulance services. “The helicopter air ambulance operational data provided to the FAA will be used by the agency as background information useful in the development of risk mitigation strategies to reduce the currently unacceptably high helicopter air ambulance accident rate, and to meet the mandates set by Congress,” FAA states in the notice published July 31.

Data will be collected quarterly.

The National Transportation Safety Board issued a report in 2011 that listed 55 EMS aircraft accidents – some involved fixed-wing aircraft – occurred in the United States between January 2002 and January 2005, resulting in 54 deaths and 18 serious injuries. The HEMS average accident rate rose during from 3.53 to 4.56 per 100,000 flight hours during that period, NTSB reported.

However, helicopter EMS organizations assert the industry’s fatal accident rate has been steadily declining during the past three decades, Flying magazine Senior Editor Stephen Pope reported July 26.