Are EMS Helicopters Safe?

Recently there was an EMS helicopter accident involving the Mayo Clinic where there was an early morning flight to procure an organ for transplant to save a patients life.

3 people died in the crash including a cardiovascular surgeon, a procurement technician and a pilot. Fire destroyed almost 90% of the helicopter which means the NTSB investigation will take months to determine the cause of the crash.

The number of fatal EMS accidents have nearly doubled since the mid 1990s and mid 2000s, and the accident rates for EMS helicopters rate well above the average rate for general aviation aircraft.

A Popular Mechanics article titled “Unacceptable Risk: The Troubling Medical Helicopter Safety Record” outlined some of the factors involved in these medical helicopter accidents.

One interesting quote from the article follows:

Most people think medical helicopters are like airliners, that they all meet the same standards,” says Thomas Judge, executive director of LifeFlight of Maine. “Yet here we take injured passengers, with no choice of carrier, and subject them to this huge variation of standards that airline passengers would not accept.

If you are not familiar with these operations here is a video that may help educate you:

In truth determining the cause of EMS Helicopter accidents often leads to human factors such as decision making. Pilots are under a great deal of pressure to perform, often under extreme weather conditions, and fatigue could also play into these accidents.

Ultimately the safety of any flight rests with the Pilot in Command, so it is not surprising that many times the Pilot in Command is either blamed as causing or contributing to the accident.

What do you think?

Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch!

JetAviator7+

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