The helicopter air ambulance industry is opposing several key safety upgrades sought by federal accident investigators even as a recent surge in crashes has killed 19 people since September.
The industry faces the prospect of government over-regulation if they don’t police themselves internally and make changes. They need to be proactive and not be perceived as fighting changes that will help to save the lives of flight crews and patients. Of the two groups, the flight crews are at higher risk. Dying in a crash is really a matter of bad luck for the patient. After all, they are likely to only fly once in their lives. The flight crews do hundreds of trips a year, so for them the odds get shorter every day.
Back in 2008 I wrote this, The problem seems to be that we don’t even have a good idea of what the questions are when it comes to HEMS. I do know this though. If EMS in general and HEMS in particular doesn’t figure out the dual issues of when to transport to a trauma center and when to utilize HEMS to do so, we’ll have the answers given to us by judges, juries, and regulators. This is on the verge of becoming a media driven issue and the results aren’t likely to be good for EMS, HEMS, or patients.
The industry doesn’t appear to have done enough, and the 11 month crash free period referred to in the article is likely to be more a matter of good luck than good policy. Good luck is not the basis for success in this matter.
Operators believe they should have the flexibility to adapt to their own circumstances, Eastlee said.
Let me translate from the original bureaucratese,
We want to do what’s cheapest and what least impacts our profit margins.
OK, maybe that’s a bit harsh and cynical. Which doesn’t mean that it’s not true.
Maybe the industry should adopt standardized rules about when NOT to fly, since weather seems to be a major contributing factor in these crashes. That has to be an industry wide standard because if one company decides to follow that rule, the next system over is likely to capitalize on that by telling would be customers “We’re not afraid to fly if it’s a little bit rainy, like XYZ medicopter is.”
Seriously, the industry has to figure out how to fly safely and reduce crashes. If not, they will find that rules are imposed upon them by external forces. Then they will really understand what “limited flexibility” is all about.