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NTSB Holds Public Hearings to Assess Medical Helicopter Safety

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Tuesday, February 03, 2009 8:36 PM EST
Category: On The Road
Tags: Major Medical, Federal Aviation Administration, Medical Helicopters, NTSB


IMAGE SOURCE: © iStockPhoto / Air Evac / author: MarcoCoda

Tuesday was the first of four days of public hearings in Washington to address the rise in medical helicopter crashes.

The goal of the hearing is for The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to learn more about helicopter emergency medical services (EMS) operations so it can better evaluate factors that lead to accidents.

The sessions are made up of aviation experts, helicopter personnel and industry executives. While a main focus of the hearing is the root of the accidents, the board will also consider the impact of the industry’s business structure on both air safety and medical care.

Safety advocates say necessary changes include tighter federal and state regulations.

The NTSB has investigated nine fatal accidents – which killed 35 people - involving medical aircrafts, in the past 12 months.

“The number of EMS accidents has risen dramatically and the Safety Board feels that some of these accidents could have been avoided if our recommendations had been followed,” said Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the NTSB hearing’s board of inquiry.

In 2006, the NTSB found operators failed to develop detailed flight risk programs, and pilots often did not have the proper information regarding bad weather they may have encountered or the equipment necessary to alert them in such instances.

The board called for stricter flight rules and improved safety equipment along with other recommendations. While the Federal Aviation Administration accepted all of the board’s recommendations, they have only put some of them in place.

"The hearing is important because it provides an opportunity to learn more about the industry so that we can possibly make more recommendations that can prevent these accidents and save lives," said Sumwalt.

More than 800 medical helicopters are estimated to be operating in this country. #

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