This is in response to the Question of the Month in the October 2013 issue (page 8): “What more needs to be done to improve the safety record of the helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) community?
We all have opinions on how to reduce the helicopter accident rate, not just HEMS. We hold NTSB hearings, form Safety Analysis Teams and workgroups. Organizations publish surveys, reports, online safety courses, or have a DVD available. These are all fine tools, but how many pilots take advantage of these tools or read and take to heart these reports? I can remember when I was flying industry, not much information was passed down to the working pilots, mechanics or crewmembers. Safety meetings were held, but the majority were just a check-the-box item for inspectors to look at.
We rarely listen to the pilots as to what tools and training they need or want. Manufacturers, regulatory agencies, accident investigators, journalists, program managers, engineers or professional associations are not the ones who are crashing aircraft. Pilots should, better yet must, decide what equipment and technology they feel will help them make their job safer? We are to the point that automation overload is taking over. We are now a jack-of-all-trades, but master of none. We need to master what we feel will help us become safer pilots. There is more to improving safety than improved equipment.
FAA should mandate recurrent simulator training for all helicopter pilots, not just single-pilot EMS. Or the FAA cold mandate two pilots in HEMS to prevent complacency. Why do you think the airlines fly two pilots?
If the FAA mandated that recurrent flight training be certificated for inspection, that would be a beginning. Most importantly, we have got to include pilots, crewmembers and mechanics to attend a safety meeting on lessons learned, and collect input as to whether these safety meetings or conferences are beneficial. Today and tomorrow’s helicopter pilots, whether they are offshore, corporate, private, HEMS, etc., demand much more than the basics or having another regulatory regulation or piece of equipment jammed down their throats. We must stress how risk-taking behavior can lead to a tragic chain of events, which can result in destroyed equipment, crew injuries and death.
Risks should not be considered unmanageable. We must stress for a zero accident rate. Can we afford to stand in front of a group as a presenter and say “this year it is acceptable if you have an accident, or it is okay if you die and your crews dies.”
The HEMS industry’s “Aviation” leadership, operators and professionals themselves need to take back their industry and run it like an aviation operation rather than allowing the current medical culture to run it like an ambulance service that just so happens to have aircraft. The HEMS industry has turned into a collection of ambulance chasing cutthroats who hold profitability above safety. FAA needs to break down its longstanding internal silos between departments and institute a rotary wing cooperative task force that is all inclusive of each of their departments when examining and deciding upon any and all needs of the rotary wing community. IHST needs to stop playing politics with HAI and allow the views from every industry stakeholder to be heard and decided upon in an open forum and not behind closed doors and only by those few on HAI’s self-serving board of directors.
To better understand the needs of the low-level Part 135 infrastructure, Congress needs to involve active aviation professionals rather than lobbing groups and associations with hidden political agendas who have never operated an aircraft in the HEMS environment. If the Part 135 infrastructure were ever to be funded with even one-tenth of the money spent on the Part 121 industry, the overall impact on safety would literally be life-changing. Only by allowing the expertise and experience of those who truly make up the industry to be heard rather than just the associations that sit on the sidelines and claim to represent the industry, will safety ever be advanced in the HEMS world.
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