17 Nov 09 NTSB Issues Recommendations On Medical Helo Operations


Wants Stricter Guidelines For Government Helo Operators, Legislation From FAA

external image NTSBLogo-SM-0909a_tn.jpg The NTSB Monday issued a set of recommendations for the FAA and Public Helicopter Emergency Medical Services Operators, following a 2008 fatal accident in Prince Georges County, Maryland in which three people were killed and another sustained serious injuries. The helicopter was being operated by the Maryland State Police in a medevac operation.
The NTSB determined that the probable cause of this accident was the pilot's attempt to regain visual conditions by performing a rapid descent and his failure to arrest the descent at the MDA during a nonprecision approach. Contributing to the accident were (1) the pilot’s limited recent instrument flight experience, (2) the lack of adherence to effective risk management procedures by the MSP, (3) the pilot’s inadequate assessment of the weather, which led to his decision to accept the flight, (4) the failure of the Potomac Consolidated Terminal Radar Approach Control (PCT) controller to provide the current ADW weather observation to the pilot, and (5) the increased workload on the pilot due to inadequate FAA air traffic control handling by the DCA Tower and PCT controllers.
In light of the accident, the NTSB has recommended that operators of medical helicopters, and in particular governments engaging in medevac operations:
  • Develop and implement flight risk evaluation programs that include training for all employees involved in the operation, procedures that support the systematic evaluation of flight risks, and consultation with others trained in helicopter emergency medical services flight operations if the risks reach a predefined level.
  • Use formalized dispatch and flight-following procedures that include up-to-date weather information and assistance in flight risk assessment decisions.
  • Install terrain awareness and warning systems on your aircraft and provide adequate training to ensure that flight crews are capable of using the systems to safely conduct helicopter emergency medical services operations.
external image FAA-logo-new-sm-0909a_tn.jpg In a companion letter to the FAA, NTSB Chair Deborah Hersman recommends that Administrator Babbitt seek specific legislative authority to regulate helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) operations conducted using government-owned aircraft to achieve safety oversight commensurate with that provided to civil HEMS operations.
In addition, the NTSB reiterated the following previously issued recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration:
  • Require all emergency medical services (EMS) operators to develop and implement flight risk evaluation programs that include training all employees involved in the operation, procedures that support the systematic evaluation of flight risks, and consultation with others trained in EMS flight operations if the risks reach a predefined level.
  • Require all emergency medical services (EMS) operators to install terrain awareness and warning systems on their aircraft and to provide adequate training to ensure that flight crews are capable of using the systems to safety conduct EMS operations.
  • Require all rotorcraft operating under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Parts 91 and 135 with a transport-category certification to be equipped with a cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and a flight data recorder (FDR). For those transport-category rotorcraft manufactured before October 11, 1991, require a CVR and an FDR or an onboard cockpit image recorder with the capability of recording cockpit audio, crew communications, and aircraft parametric data.
FMI: www.ntsb.gov


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