January 6, 2011
Abram I. Bohrer

The Federal Aviation Administration has proposed new rules to prevent medical helicopter crashes, and these proposals have been subjected to a period of public comments that will end on January 10th. The rules which, are widely supported by California EMS helicopter crash attorneys, propose more training for pilots, stricter rules governing flights in poor or hazardous weather, as well as the use of advanced aviation safety systems to prevent crashes.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s new proposed rules would require medical helicopter and air ambulance operators to conduct a preflight risk analysis. The proposals also require operators to analyze the risk of a helicopter crash before initiating a flight. The FAA has also focused extra carefully on the importance of safety briefings for medical personnel before a flight. A number of medical helicopter crashes in recent months have been traced to bad decisions to fly in hazardous weather conditions. The FAA proposals focus very strongly on flying and landing in poor weather, as well as landing in remote areas. Under the new proposals, pilots would be required to hold instrument ratings, there would be limits on how long flight crews could work, and require rest breaks.

These proposals won’t come cheap. According to the FAA, the proposals would cost the nation’s medical helicopter industry approximately $225 million in the next decade. However, there are plenty of indications that these proposals are necessary. After a relatively safe 2009, there was a spike in medical helicopter crashes in 2010. There is no final tally for the number of fatalities in air ambulance and medical helicopter crashes in 2010, but it is expected to be lower than the 24-fatality toll in 2008, which was one of the deadliest years for medical helicopter safety. According to the FAA, 126 people have been killed in medical helicopter crashes between 1992 and 2009