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    « Flying Drunk—A True Story of Redemption | Main | Results of GPS Survey and new Max Trescott GPS Guides for iPhone »

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    John Halbrook

    Max,

    Aero-medical safety is a huge problem. The NTSB has repeatedly made recommendations for several years now. As the rash of accidents as increased leaders in the EMS industry have begun to speak out about the need to implement stricter safety programs. I'm glad that aviation experts such as yourself have begun to comment on these issues.

    Here are a few of my observations on the issue.

    http://www.halbrookassociates.com/halbrook_associatescom/2008/10/is-air-ambulanc.html

    Ken Lane

    I have an instrument student who is an aviation attorney. One of the sore spots he speaks of is helicopter EMS operations. He has been involved in more than a few and wouldn't mind if that source of business dried up. That means, no more helo EMS incidents. I don't see that happening any time soon as long as the rules are so relaxed. I know of one close to home here in Texas. That was a quite a blow. At least it wasn't a crew I talked to all the time where I flew out of.

    Luca Bencini-Tibo

    I'm all for safety - no question here and I do have sympathy for the lost crews, patients and their families. I'm very active in the FAA Safety program as a rep.

    But a couple of "things" are missing in this discussion:

    1. Profit motive - since these are not government operations nor charities, profit needs to be a motive for the operators to stay in business. What is the solution: increase the amount reimbursed and then mandate that all operators use twin engine IFR certified helicopters with IFR certified pilots? Or would it be better to have counties / municipalities take this over with their limited budgets?

    2. A cost / risk analysis is needed, we need to see how many patients were saved through EMS helicopter flights (rather than ground bound ambulances) and the patients (and crews) lost in EMS operations. Clearly these ops are of higher risk - car accidents are more prevalent at night and in bad weather and that is when they need to fly. Similar issue with USCG helicopters - they tend to fly in worse weather - the mission demands it. This is what's missing from everything I have read about - only the number of accidents and lost crews / patients without regard to the positive outcomes.

    The question boils down to: what level of risk can we live with given a budget level? To say: "zero accidents" is a lofty goal with no context.

    Now it could be when this cost / risk analysis is actually done, that "good old" ground based ambulance service comes out ahead. In that case, EMS helicopters would then be outlawed.



    Matt Johnson

    Nice article and enough good stuff can't be said about Pat Shaub - a true-to-heart aviation professional.

    For more insight on the Air Medical industry check out my article "Improving the Air Medical Industry - A matter of Life or Death"

    http://www.eagleeyesolutionsllc.com/downloads/Air%20Med%20Safety.pdf

    Bick Eubanks

    Max, the same is true for many professional flight positions. In check/freight flying the Chief Pilot (CP) or Director of Operations (DO) will often pressure pilots to fly in weather that they are not comfortable flying in. When I was working as a "freight dog", I would tell new pilots to make it clear that they were the pilot in command and ,by law, the go or no go decision was theirs to make. The C P or D O may threaten them with their jobs but that is usually a hollow threat. I know it has happened to me. Funny though I was flying with the same company after aborting a flight due to weather. It has to be really dangerous weather though. Two hundred feet and a half mile visibility are not considered dangerous for a properly trained and current instrument pilot and management knows that.

    With rescue helicopters, I suspect that the pilots pressure themselves since they know that a life may depend on them being able to complete the flight.

    Josh Thompson

    Max, interesting post and as a MEDEVAC pilot I thought I'd give my two cents. You say in your post, "I’ve often thought about how one day one of them may give me a ride. But after reading the articles, I don’t think I’d accept a ride in an EMS helicopter unless I had a life threatening injury." Well if it's not a life, limb, or eyesight injury that requires care within the "golden hour" then you shouldn't be getting on a helicopter at all. Unfortunately in our business the higher risk levels are ignored by those requesting the services because of convenience. Many times the helicopter that is truly needed at the scene of one accident is already tied up flying a patient that didn't really need the ride in the first place. Unfortunately, we're in the business of respond first and ask questions later. Perhaps a better tack for the industry to take is establishing guidelines for when helicopter use is appropriate. That would at least ensure that when EMS crews risk their lives they are doing so for a worthy cause...

    Steve Allcorn

    As a former flight medic I can tell you that more often then not the patients condition does not warrent the level of care on the helicopter. My former company flies really nice equipment (A Star B3)with goggles etc..The pilots are all high time with mountain experience. That all means nothing when the ship is balled up and everyone dies while they are lifting a 90 year old with a bowel obstruction to a hospital when a ground ambulance is sitting right there. I stopped flying after a close call one moon less night after a brown out on approach almost cost us.

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