FAA: Helicopter Emergency Medical Service Safety

Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) operations are unique due to the emergency nature of the flight. The FAA, operators, and the medical community all play a vital role in promoting a positive safety culture that ensures the safety of passengers, flight crews, and medical professional on these flights.

In August 2004, the FAA initiated a government and industry partnership that reduced HEMS accidents in 2005 and 2006. While the total number of accidents declined, fatal accidents increased sharply to eight in 2008. There were two fatal accidents in 2009 and two so far in 2010. While the FAA is pursuing new rules that support National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendations, the agency has aggressively promoted significant short-term safety initiatives that do not require rulemaking. The FAA’s has immediate focus has been:

Encourage risk management training to flight crews so that they can make more analytical decisions about whether to launch on a flight.

Better training for night operations and responding to inadvertent flight into deteriorating weather conditions.

Promote technology such as night vision goggles (NVGs), terrain awareness and warning systems (TAWS) and radar altimeters.

Provide airline-type FAA oversight for operators. Identify regional FAA HEMS operations and maintenance inspectors to help certificate new operators and review the operations of existing companies.

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