AAMS to Participate in NTSB Medical Helicopter Safety Hearings

ALEXANDRIA, VA – The Association of Air Medical Services (AAMS) has been invited to participate in upcoming National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) hearings that will examine the safety of medical helicopters. The hearings, scheduled for Feb. 3-6 in Washington, D.C., are being held in response to an increase in fatal medical helicopter crashes in the past year.

"AAMS is deeply saddened by the recent accidents and incidents in air medical transport, and my heart goes out to the victims and their families," says AAMS President Sandy Kinkade. "This is clearly an unacceptable trend that cannot continue, and it is our hope that the NTSB hearings will shed further light on the complex contributing factors, with the goal of making future air medical transport as safe as possible."

To assist in that effort, AAMS has taken several proactive steps, including coordinating meetings between the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and air medical industry aviation experts, and holding a full-day Safety Summit last July aimed at identifying and incorporating effective cultural and operational safety enhancements.

More importantly, the association has been working toward improved access to and practical implementation of several enhanced safety technologies, including Night Vision Goggles (NVGs), Helicopter Terrain Alert Warning Systems (H-TAWS), Cockpit and/or Flight Data Recording Devices, and similar in-flight systems. To that end, AAMS also supports proposed legislation in Congress that addresses key safety-enhancement application issues and related funding concerns.

Still other AAMS-supported initiatives include improving the low-altitude aviation infrastructure by expanding the Airport Improvement Program to include private-use hospital helipads, regional airports and other routinely utilized locations; and directing more FAA funding and research toward expanding the capacity of low-altitude, off-airport weather reporting. AAMS believes these goals can be achieved by increasing the number of automated weather observation stations (AWOS), helping to improve hospital helipads and supporting such technologies as the Helicopter Emergency Medical Systems (HEMS) Weather Tool (www.weather.aero/hems/), a free online device that fills in weather reporting "gaps" via an algorithm that assesses cloud ceilings and visibility between AWOS systems.

"The role of AAMS in this process is to ensure that the safest and most practical solutions are implemented," says Kinkade. "Because some of these technologies include access, funding and other issues, and are not always one-size-fits-all, it’s important to build flexibility into their implementation, along with timelines adapted to regulatory oversight and procedures."

For more information visit www.aams.org.