The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has scheduled a public hearing to take comments and testimony on the safety of airborne emergency medical service (EMS) operations. The three-day hearing will begin on Feb. 3, 2009 at NTSB headquarters in Washington, D.C.
"We have seen an alarming rise in the numbers of EMS accidents and the [NTSB] believes some of these accidents could have been prevented if our recommendations were implemented," said Board Member Robert Sumwalt in a November 10 statement. "This hearing will be extremely important because it can provide an opportunity to learn more about the industry so that possibly we can make further recommendations that can prevent these accidents and save lives."
A study commissioned by the NTSB, "Special Investigation Report on EMS Operations," was completed in January 2006 and revealed 55 EMS-related aviation accidents between 2002 and 2005 involving 41 helicopters and 14 airplanes. They resulted in 54 fatalities and 19 serious injuries.
This year has shown an even higher rate of fatal EMS accidents, including the September 27 crash of a Maryland State Police AS365 Dauphin less than 10 mi from where this hearing will be held. That accident resulted in four fatalities and one serious injury. The cause is still under investigation, but weather has been identified as a factor.
Witnesses scheduled to testify at the hearing include pilots, medical caregivers, operations managers and FAA representatives. Topics will cover safety equipment, training and system oversight. The hearing will be made available to the general public in webcast form at www.ntsb.gov.