Friday, 8 October 2010

Feds Will Soon Roll out Enhanced Medical Helicopter Safety Rules


Inspired no doubt, by a string of deadly medical helicopter and air ambulance crashes this year, the Federal Aviation Administration is soon expected to roll out its new safety standards for the medical helicopter industry. So far, we've lost more than a dozen people in medical helicopter crashes this year, and it looks like we are well on our way to beating the record of 29 medical helicopter crash fatalities set in 2008. Unless the FAA quickly moves in to set stricter restrictions, and stronger regulations that provide for greater oversight over medical helicopter operators, we will continue to see unnecessary deaths occurring in these crashes.

Some of the provisions that the proposed new regulations are expected to include are enhanced training for pilots, tighter restrictions on medical helicopter operators and requirements for enhanced safety equipment. Terrain Avoidance Warning Systems are likely to feature in the new proposed regulations. These systems are in place in several medical helicopter fleets and can prevent crashes that occur in poor weather. The National Transportation Safety Board has for years now recommended that all medical helicopters come with these Terrain Avoidance Warning Systems. In spite of this, an estimated 60% of all medical helicopters in the country are not equipped with these systems.

Another factor in medical helicopter crashes that has concerned California helicopter crash lawyers and which the FAA is likely to address is enhanced risk assessment before medical helicopters are operated in poor visibility or adverse weather conditions. Many helicopter crashes occur in poor visibility conditions, and there must be rules that require operators to undertake proper risk assessment before they allow medical helicopters to take off in such conditions. The Federal Aviation Administration is also likely to require night vision goggles for all medical helicopter pilots.

However, the federal agency is likely to not address the two-pilot rule. It's safer to have two pilots in a medical helicopter, but the FAA is likely not to include this in its proposed regulations.

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