I’m a 15-year HEMS PIC, based at a large university hospital. Hospital-based aircraft are usually leased from an aviation vendor, which also provides flight crews (the medical crews are usually hospital employees). The biggest safety concern in this arrangement is the vendor’s surrender of operational control in the interest of “customer service.”
Mike Redmon touched on this topic in “Safety Wish List” in the May 2011 issue of Rotor & Wing. Medical directors dictate which helicopter model the hospital wants, who the lead pilot will be, final say on pilot hiring and firings, and other practices which affect safety, and which therefore ought to be made by aviation professionals, not doctors and nurses. Other problems include a lack of pilot proficiency due to fewer transport requests (I fly less than 100 per year and most flight legs are less than 10 minutes in the large, urban environment we serve). Also, almost all HEMS pilots experience pressure to fly in inappropriate conditions (weather and otherwise) from medical crews at some point in their careers; at some bases this is the norm.
Improving the HEMS accident rate will require that all of these issues are addressed, but the shortest route to fewer accidents is more and better pilot training. Acquiring new technology or adding a copilot might be helpful, but I was a single-pilot aviator in the U.S. Army for many years, handling much more challenging conditions than anything I’ve encountered in EMS. We didn’t have GPS or moving maps, no H-TAWS, no satellite weather, and in the days before night vision goggles (NVGs), we flew unaided in some of the darkest places you can imagine. What kept us alive was training and more training. What we have now is the CTS system (a useful supplement), and an annual checkride. These should never have replaced the pilot strapping a helicopter (or simulator) to his butt and finding the opportunity to just practice, practice, practice.
R&W’s Question of the Month:
In your view, what are the helicopter industry’s biggest stories from 2011?
Let us know, and look for your and others’ responses in a future issue. You’ll find contact information below.
I was associated with Turbomeca through SUD Aviation in France in 1966 operating Arthrouste 1B engines on Aloutte helicopters in the Indian Air Force. Since then through years I’ve operated Arriel 2C engines on Dauphine N3 helicopters in India. Apart from excellent performance of engines, back up service of Turbomeca is excellent. I wish the engine maker continued success in helicopter engine technology.
Wing Commander MK Kulkarni (Ret.)
MD Kulkarni Aviation, India
On our Facebook [www.facebook.com/rotorandwing] and Twitter [twitter.com/rotorandwing] site, we’ve received a large number of responses to the question, “Based on visual appeal alone, what’s the best looking helicopter or helicopters?” The following represents a selection of what people are saying:
Brian Cooney: That’s a tough one. I like sleek lines like on the Bell 222, Eurocopter EC155 and even the Kaman K-MAX. Gazelles look cool too and MD500s.
Bob Pederson: Sikorsky S-76, in flight, with landing gear retracted.
Ron David: I have three faves, the Russian Mi-24, the ole Jolly Green Giant CH-53 Super Stallion, and of course the Hughes 500.
Luis Celestino: RAH-66 Comanche and the AH-64 Apache.
@HalmagianVictor: For a civil helicopter: Eurocopter EC135. For a military helicopter: Boeing AH-64D Longbow Apache or the Eurocopter EC665 Tiger.
@vulcanboy607: It’s got to be either the Mil MI-26 “Halo” or the Kamov Ka-32, which is so fugly it’s pretty!
@Apache4D: The Sikorsky S-76 is without doubt the sleekest most beautiful helicopter in the skies. A stylish machine years ahead of its time on release.
@vootatico: Bell AH-1Z Viper, AgustaWestland AW129 Mangusta, Eurocopter AS565 Panther and Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk, in this order.
The contact phone number for the Revue Thommen searchlight that appeared in the Hot Products section on page 27 of the October issue is +41-61-965-2346. Thommen can also be reached by e-mail at Walter.Fischbach@thommen.aero or on the web at www.thommen.aero.