Commercial, Public Service

Feedback November 2013

By Staff Writer | November 1, 2013


David Lyons EC135 model.

I was very excited to see the University of Tennessee Medical Center LIFESTAR Eurocopter EC135 on the front cover of the October issue. As this helicopter is only 40 minutes from my home, I’m pleased to see the UT medical system chosen as your feature article. What is more exciting is that the helicopter is shown prominently on the front cover.


I’m currently building a 1/6 flying replica of the UT LIFESTAR EC135. This is an electrically powered (12S, 44V 5000mAh powered setup) helicopter weighing in at 26 lbs. I’ve put some photos on the web to update the progress.

David Lyons

Poor Decision-Making

The question in the October 2013 issue was: What more needs to be done to improve the safety record of HEMS operations?

I’m an EMS pilot for a major carrier and have been for the previous seven years, I live in northeastern Kentucky and hold a commercial pilot license. I have about 3,000 total hours, 2,000 in the U.S. Army, and another 1,000 flying EMS. I have a bachelor’s degree in general aviation topics and am about two classes shy of completing my master’s degree in aviation safety.

In my opinion, almost every single accident has been due to poor pilot decision-making. Be it running out of fuel or taking off or continuing in poor weather conditions. So if we know what the problem is, what can we do to fix it and reduce the mishaps?

Well first and foremost we need to develop a training program that teaches pilots from an early stage what a good decision really means. The climate for safety needs to be such that there is no question about what the right decision should be, and no pressure to fly. I believe we have enough rules on the books to keep us safe, what we need is pilots that execute the rules in a manner that results in almost zero accidents (recognizing that absolutely zero accidents is an unachievable goal). The FAA and other organizations have given pilots all the tools we need. Goggles, terrain avoidance, traffic avoidance, weather, synthetic vision, autopilot (in some aircraft), ASAP and the list goes on. All these tools will not save another aircraft and crew if the pilots flying continue to push the limits and ignore obvious cues for mission abort. Those cues might include, fuel less than required to complete the leg, approaching the low-fuel light quantity, weather within one mile or 100 feet of established minimums, to just name a few. HEMS operations are a dynamic environment and it takes pilots and medical crew that are not willing to accept pushing minimums to get the job done. If it appears that conditions are approaching the limit that no longer supports safe flight, then we simply end the flight, even if that means landing in some field with no access to civilization. Medical crewmembers need to know what these minimums are and have a voice in the go/no go decision-making.

It is ironic that as helicopter pilots we fly in a machine that can essentially land anywhere, yet instead of simply landing in a field somewhere we choose to continue in deteriorating conditions.

Why is that? Is it a company or customer induced climate that does not support pilots ending flights? Or is it a self-induced climate brought on by the crew themselves? In either case, the climate must support the most conservative response to safe flight operations. To me, its really just that simple.

Mike Ojeda


The captions were incorrectly labeled for two photos on page 32 of the September 2013 issue as part of “Not Just Folding Wings and Tails,” a story about marinized helicopters. The images show a Kaman Seasprite photographed after decades sitting in a boneyard, and not after exposure to a realistic maritime environment.

The SH-2G Super Seasprite fleet has accumulated more than 1 million maritime flight hours, and has been proven in the field by operators worldwide. It is the only helicopter designed from inception specifically to operate in a marine environment, according to Kaman.

Any implication that Seasprites experience corrosion or damage in a maritime environment was inaccurate and unintentional. We sincerely regret the error.


Do you have comments on the rotorcraft industry or recent articles and viewpoints we’ve published? Send them to Editor, Rotor & Wing, 4 Choke Cherry Road, Second Floor, Rockville, Md. 20850, USA, fax us at 1-301-354-1809 or e-mail us at Please include a city and state or province with your name and ratings. We reserve the right to edit all submitted material.

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