Air Ambulance Safety: Under the Microscope


Recently I was interviewed for an article, “Air Ambulance Safety: A Closer Look,” which was written by Stephen Pope and featured in the July 2013 issue of Flying Magazine. While Mr. Pope touches on several key concerns regarding air ambulance operations, I felt the article painted too rosy a picture of an industry in need of serious reflection – and change.

Mr. Pope sums up his findings this way:

“When it comes right down to it, these helicopters exist for one purpose: to save lives. And when we look at all of the data, and not just snippets that suit a particular viewpoint, we find that they perform this mission exceptionally well.”

Unfortunately, he didn’t mention the multiple EMS helicopter crashes that have taken place this year. Slack Davis Sanger represents families of victims involved in several of these crashes. Their concerns about what happened to their loved ones deserve to be acknowledged – by the reporter and by the industry.

One key concern that I described in the article:

“… Slack subscribes to a growing philosophy even within the EMS community that pilots should be kept out of the medical-information loop, so that a go, no-go decision is never based on a situation where, say, the patient is a child who is unlikely to survive unless he or she reaches a hospital quickly. The only choice the pilot should make is whether it’s safe to accept the flight. He should not assess the condition of the patient. Slack goes a step further, arguing that first responders at the scene shouldn’t be allowed to call for a helicopter either, because their judgment may be clouded as well. The final call about whether to transport a patient by air or ground ambulance, he says, should only come from a doctor at the hospital.”

There are other vital issues facing the helicopter EMS industry. I encourage readers and website visitors to review these documents to get a more complete analysis: