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Tar Devil
02-04-2009, 10:26 AM
And we thought crabbing was hazardous...


Expert: Air-ambulance crews among most likely to die

By Alan Levin, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON Air-ambulance helicopters have the worst fatal crash record in aviation, and their crews are among the most likely to die on the job, an expert told a panel of federal investigators Tuesday.

The rate of fatalities per 100,000 air-ambulance employees over the past 10 years exceeds other dangerous professions such as logging or deep-sea fishing, said Ira Blumen, program director of the University of Chicago Aeromedical Network.

Full article. (http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2009-02-03-medchopper_N.htm)

My opinion... these guys are a victim of circumstances. They gotta fly into unfamiliar terrain with little preparation. Knowing their life expectancy, they're heroes every time they take off.

capt jake
02-04-2009, 10:27 AM
And we thought crabbing was hazardous...



Full article. (http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2009-02-03-medchopper_N.htm)

My opinion... these guys are a victim of circumstances. They gotta fly into unfamiliar terrain with little preparation. Knowing their life expectancy, they're heroes every time they take off.

Totally agree. We have lost several crews here in the past several years.

BrianW
02-04-2009, 10:37 AM
Some organizations do it better than others...

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v136/BrianW/Jayhawk_6020-l.jpg

paladin
02-04-2009, 10:54 AM
Some organizations have almost unlimited budgets to maintain their equipment and aren't threatened with job termination if they refuse to fly in certain conditions.

BrianW
02-04-2009, 11:00 AM
Granted. :)

erster
02-04-2009, 11:10 AM
Some organizations have almost unlimited budgets to maintain their equipment and aren't threatened with job termination if they refuse to fly in certain conditions.
Good thing some of those projects that fit in your description did not get too far off the ground.;)

USCG Deepwater.:p

Dan McCosh
02-04-2009, 11:19 AM
It's an oddball statistic to use to account for safety. Usually, you look at crashes per flight to determine the danger of flight operations.

BrianW
02-04-2009, 11:21 AM
It's an oddball statistic to use to account for safety. Usually, you look at crashes per flight to determine the danger of flight operations.

I've always preferred less than one crash per flight. :)

Dan McCosh
02-04-2009, 11:41 AM
I've always preferred less than one crash per flight. :)

OK--the crash/flights ratio; crashes per thousand flights, etc. (Airlines like to look at crashes per passenger miles flown, which makes it look better than it really is.)

Brian Palmer
02-04-2009, 11:42 AM
There was a case in the paper here a few years ago where a women fell or was pushed off a bridge into a creek. The newspaper reported that although the woman appeared uninjured, she was flown by helicopter to the hospital. There also happened to be a closer hospital to where she was, but it could not take helicopters. Seemed very strange at the time, maybe there was more to the story.

Brian

TimH
02-04-2009, 12:01 PM
There was a head on collision in front of my old house (on the highway). The helo landed on my front lawn and took the victim(s) to Harborview.
Was pretty exciting.

Tar Devil
02-04-2009, 12:04 PM
I remember discussions about helio med evac safety over a decade ago; things haven't gotten much better.

HappyJack
02-05-2009, 09:14 AM
Here in Ontario, air ambulance service is run by ORNGE - essentially a government operation.

Their safety record is really good. I believe a key to this is their flight protocols: when a call comes in the first thing that happens is the pilots are asked if they can fly. If the answer is yes, then they get the call details, if no, then no details - this takes away the "hero" syndrome. The other key safety measure is they only do night landings at "official" landing pads - ones that have either reflective markings or lighting. These pads have been approved by the service provider as being safe, and, all pilots have made at least one daytime landing. The protocol then is to have the paramedics couriered to the emergency by land and the patient transported back to the aircraft with them - usually by land ambulance.

Some say this limits the service, however, our air ambulance service is a medical service with advanced care paramedics, not a rescue service.

Scotty

Bruce Hooke
02-05-2009, 09:59 AM
It would be interesting to see how the FAA investigations play out (assuming we can trust them to actually do a proper job when one possible issue is their own failure to properly regulate the industry). It seems quite possible that a key issue is inserting competitive pressure into a situation where competition is likely to exert strong pressure from multiple directions to do the wrong thing. This could range from failure to properly maintain equipment to flying when conditions are not safe to rushing to be first to the scene. Poor regulation would only compound the problem.

However, HappyJack raised another issue that also occurred to me...

The first job of a rescuer is to not become someone who needs to be rescued. That does nobody any good. However, even for trained professionals, it is not easy to remember to think first of your own safety when you are in an emergency situation.

Phillip Allen
02-05-2009, 10:13 AM
I've met one or two of them...the one I remember the best was a damn good looking woman...(I think I feel an illness coming on...need airevac)

Dan McCosh
02-05-2009, 10:27 AM
A pilot friend made the following points: Medivac helicopters and crews are only equipped for VFR, but are cleared for low altitude flight, etc., Most are run by private agencies, paid through insurance that makes it quite profitable on a per-run basis--which tends to encourage excessive use of the service, bad weather, etc.
The combination increases the accident rate.

J P
02-05-2009, 03:44 PM
I'm surprised air attack firefighting and heli logging don't rank more dangerous than medivac flying.

Couple weeks ago there was a snowmobile accident here. The first two options for medivac, based 50 miles off, couldn't, or wouldn't, fly because of an inversion with heavy freezing fog. The call then went to a local helo outfit that does logging and firefighting. They are based within 10 miles of the accident. I happened to be out walking that day (taking pictures of elk - another thread here) and I heard the helicopter a couple miles away up near a local lake. I was amazed, shocked, that anyone was flying in the fog that day. Then it got quiet and a short time later I saw an ambulance drive up the road. 'Not good' I'm thinking. Then I hear the helo again and start to figure out what might be going on. They had airlifted the victim to road access. Sad deal though, she didn't make it. :(

No idea how they were able to fly that day. I don't like to second guess the people calling the shots but I'm not sure it was really necessary to fly. Seems like our search and rescue gets too dependent on air support at times. There was another tragedy here recently when a couple hikers took a bad fall in the mountains and died of their injuries and exposure. One had made contact by cell phone and SAR got a good GPS fix on their location. A night flying helo actually spotted the victim's cell phone lcd screen but the weather worsened and the plans for an air rescue went on hold. Quite a few folks feel that a more aggressive gound team would have been able to get there in a much quicker time than they eventually did had there not been so much focus and time spent on using the helipcopters. I know the SAR folks try to get it right and I'm sure they are reviewing/revising their policies after that incident. Hope so anyway.

oznabrag
02-05-2009, 09:48 PM
What about those maniacs who maintain live, high-voltage transmission lines from helicopters?

That's just nuts.

PatCox
02-05-2009, 09:52 PM
I understand that the use of the air ambulances has greatly improved the survival rate of crash victims with really bad trauma. Kinda the way battlefield medicine has greatly improved survival rates in war. I bet the balance overall is lots more people alive.

PatCox
02-05-2009, 09:54 PM
JP, I am not putting down those brave air rescue people, but part of the reason they might go out in dangerous conditions, or when not strictly necessary, is the simple fact that if you have a piece of expensive fancy equipment, you want to use it.

Captain Intrepid
02-05-2009, 10:09 PM
JP, I am not putting down those brave air rescue people, but part of the reason they might go out in dangerous conditions, or when not strictly necessary, is the simple fact that if you have a piece of expensive fancy equipment, you want to use it.

It seems that in the USA, the main reason is $$$.

Apparently there's no reason for it to be dangerous. According to the article, Canada hasn't had a single fatality since 1977. It's dangerous simply because it's a potentially dangerous, lightly regulated, highly lucrative and free market affair in the US of A. Those factors always spell risk and danger. Companies push the envelope in the hopes of making coin, and put people's lives on the line.

Not to denigrate those who actually fly, just the suits that don't care if a copter goes down cause it's insured to the fuzzy dice in the cockpit. It's the same as companies who grossly overload their ships. Who cares if they sink, insurance will pay for it, and there's always more crew looking for jobs.

Bob Triggs
02-05-2009, 10:13 PM
I was an EMT for about six years. We connected with an air ambulance a few times each month. That is avery high risk situation for so many reasons; unfamiliar/untested landing zones, operating near highways and wiring,( one crew that we all knew died hitting a high voltage wiring that was not properly charted), flying in marginal weather to save lives. Bad site information. Landing on high rise buildings in heavy weather...so many things can go wrong. No one is playing with the equipment. It is a deadly serious occupation. If you need them, they will come at their own peril.

Tar Devil
02-05-2009, 10:35 PM
It is a deadly serious occupation. If you need them, they will come at their own peril.

My point in the beginning. Regardless of the money changers controlling the operation, the crews lay it out for those in need.

capt jake
02-05-2009, 10:41 PM
My point in the beginning. Regardless of the money changers controlling the operation, the crews lay it out for those in need.

The point that most administrators don't get, might I add........

John of Phoenix
02-05-2009, 10:46 PM
I PROMISE you, crews do not do it for the money. I don't of a more highly skilled, lower paid profession, whether EMT or pilot. And they don't get paid by the flight.

Those folks literally died trying.

Domesticated_Mr. Know It All
02-05-2009, 10:48 PM
I always thought driving a truck through fog and snow covered roads in the Great Lakes area during the Winter months, right up there with the most dangerous jobs.
I wasn't well paid either.

Glen Longino
02-05-2009, 10:58 PM
I read recently, or heard, wish I could remember where, that the greatest risk and most accidents are at night.
Seems that crews do not have the latest in night vision technology. Can't see wires and trees well.
I'll leave it to others to find out if not, why not.

Captain Intrepid
02-05-2009, 11:03 PM
I PROMISE you, crews do not do it for the money. I don't of a more highly skilled, lower paid profession, whether EMT or pilot. And they don't get paid by the flight.

Those folks literally died trying.

I don't believe anyone thinks that the crew do it for the money, there's just a lot of people who think that it's money that makes it dangerous, as the management neglects safety measures as they cost too much. There's a reason why most industries are regulated, and it's not cause employers care about their employees.

John of Phoenix
02-05-2009, 11:19 PM
Night and weather. Each dangerous. In combo... man, so close so many times. Don't mess with mother nature!

NVG are in many cases a false sense of security. The acuity is about 20/200 with ZERO depth perception and not much contrast. At 20/200 you can't see wires and weather sneaks up on you. In fog, rain, dust, smoke, etc., you can see thru it and don't even know you're in it until the goggles just green out and then you can't see anything. Then you have to transition to instruments very quickly with no night vision and near zero ambient light at very low altitude and.. well you get the idea.

Glen Longino
02-05-2009, 11:25 PM
I for one am glad you made it here, John!
Best to you!

CK 17
02-06-2009, 09:08 AM
Most of these accidents seem to be during the enroute phase of the flight. I don't have the stats to prove it, but the ones I've heard about are.

This tells me there is a reluctance to climb up to a higher altitudes. Is it the equipment? regulations? lack of IFR charts? etc.

If things are getting dangerous why not climb up and get a clearance?

The Bigfella
02-06-2009, 09:12 AM
I spotted a comment in the cdc site about the most dangerous workplace when looking up some stats for the gun safety thread .......

.... would you believe....... taxi depots.

Taylor Tarvin
02-06-2009, 09:21 AM
Most of these accidents seem to be during the enroute phase of the flight. I don't have the stats to prove it, but the ones I've heard about are.

This tells me there is a reluctance to climb up to a higher altitudes. Is it the equipment? regulations? lack of IFR charts? etc.

If things are getting dangerous why not climb up and get a clearance?

I think you are right on the enroute phase being where most losses occur. The reluctance to climb into the IFR enviroment is because there isn't an instrument approach to the hospital. They are more inclined to scud run to get the patient directly to the hospital.

Dan McCosh
02-06-2009, 11:23 AM
Most of these accidents seem to be during the enroute phase of the flight. I don't have the stats to prove it, but the ones I've heard about are.

This tells me there is a reluctance to climb up to a higher altitudes. Is it the equipment? regulations? lack of IFR charts? etc.

If things are getting dangerous why not climb up and get a clearance?

Ambulance helicopters are not equipped for IFR, only VFR.

Taylor Tarvin
02-06-2009, 12:42 PM
Ambulance helicopters are not equipped for IFR, only VFR.

The BK117 flown by the local hospital is single pilot IFR certified.

John of Phoenix
02-06-2009, 01:00 PM
The BK117 flown by the local hospital is single pilot IFR certified.

Single pilot IFR. :eek: <Shivvvver!>
Coupled autopilot no doubt.

Taylor, do you have any experience with the BK117? I've never even seen one up close but I've heard they're good birds. That clamshell cargo door always looked interesting.

Taylor Tarvin
02-06-2009, 01:09 PM
John, no experience flying any MBB helicopters. I know one of the pilots at the hospital. He says the BK117 is the best aircraft he has ever flown, and he has flown most. You are right on the autopilot, 3axis, can be hooked up to the nav system. The cockpit on the hospital bird makes the 767s I fly look very antiquated. The clamshell doors make it incredibly easy to get a litter in and out of the A/C. MBB raised the tail boom higher than the BO105 to make it easier to get to the doors.

and you were right, nobody flys medevac to get rich. I think they have too much of a get the mission done at all costs attitude, not that we haven't seen that before.

marshcat
02-06-2009, 01:16 PM
UVA's Pegasus is also single pilot IFR. From their page (http://www.healthsystem.virginia.edu/internet/pegasus/about.cfm):

"Our aircraft is an Augusta 109E Power helicopter that is twin engine, single pilot IFR rated, and night vision goggle equipped. The programs's primary operational area is within a 120 NM radius of Charlottesville, VA. The program also has a BK-117 that is utilized as a back-up aircraft. Our communications center can assist you with arrangements for longer or international flights. "

The medevac crash (http://www.baltimoreexaminer.com/local/0116emsMEDEVAC.html) near DC in September looked like a clusterf##k - ATC problems, incorrect weather reports, questionable need given the weather and extent of injuries.

John of Phoenix
02-06-2009, 01:55 PM
This is an NTSB picture of the wreckage of marshcat's Pegasus crash above. At night in fog - like I said, don't mess with mother nature.

Not much left. Note the helmets. (RIPx4, one miracle survivor)

http://www.ntsb.gov/Dockets/Aviation/MIA08MA203/409116.pdf

More info here http://www.ntsb.gov/Dockets/Aviation/MIA08MA203/default.htm

marshcat
02-06-2009, 02:08 PM
I should have been a bit more clear - Pegasus is a medevac service near us, but was not the service involved in the crash I linked to. The crash near DC was a Maryland State Police (http://www.mspaviation.org/frames.asp) copter (and pilot). They are not a paid service, so they did not have the money pressure, but apparently budget pressures meant they did not have the best equipment.
http://www.mspaviation.org/graphics/trooper4landing.jpg