Saturday, July 23, 2005

More on Helicopter EMS Safety

This is really discouraging for someone who flew with two outstanding services. Excerpted from US Today:

Since 2000, 60 people have died in 84 crashes--more than double the number of crashes during the previous five years. During that period, more than 10% of the U.S. air ambulance helicopter fleet crashed. If commercial airlines lost the same proportion of large passenger jets as air ambulance companies lost helicopters, 90 airliners would crash each year.
Despite the surge in the number of crashes, however, air ambulance companies and the federal agency that oversees them failed time and again to take steps that might have averted tragedy and saved lives, a USA TODAY investigation shows.

The newspaper reviewed hundreds of pages of documents and interviewed dozens of pilots, aviation experts, federal officials, and executives with the companies that operate the flights. Because government statistics on air ambulance crashes are sparse, USA TODAY also created its own database of 275 accidents since 1978.

Unlike passengers on commercial jets, the people being transported by air ambulances--many critically ill or injured in accidents far from hospitals--had no choice but to make the flights.

The crashes that killed them often involved egregious errors by pilots and crew. In one case, a helicopter carrying an 11-day-old child and her mother slammed into the side of a mountain at night. In other crashes, pilots flew into thick fog even after other air ambulance pilots had refused to fly.


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