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another fatal Air-Evac helicopter crash...

March 20 2005 at 1:39 PM
Johnny Bob  (Login jbob)
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from IP address 209.248.57.59


Response to HELICOPTER = D A N G E R !!! (more links)

 

This fatal crash is the eighth Air-Evac helicopter accident since 2001. You can read the February 27, 2005 newspaper story at the link below:

http://www.nwaonline.net/articles/2005/02/27/front/03air.txt

These helicopters are dangerous! They should not be allowed to fly low over our highly populated neighborhoods in Mt Vernon IL several times a day. It's not safe!
JB


[because online newspaper stories disappear frequently, it is copied below...]

More Flights, More Crashes
By Don Dailey
The Morning News

ROGERS -- The fatal crash this week of an Air Evac helicopter in western Benton County was the company's eighth accident since 2001, but its safety record mirrors the industry as a whole.

Andy Arthurs, Air Evac Lifeteam director of base operations, said the increase in the number of accidents correlates to the increase in the number of flights by the company's aircraft.

"A small company may fly 4,000 hours a year," Arthurs said. "Air Evac in 2005 will fly 35,000 hours a year."

The entire air medical industry has seen its accident rate increase each year beginning in the late 1990s, an increase that has drawn the interest of the Federal Aviation Administration.

According to National Transportation Safety Board records, the helicopter crash near Cherokee City north of Siloam Springs that killed a Texas man being flown from a vehicle accident was the second crash in four months of an Oklahoma-based Air Evac aircraft and crew.

Robert Arneson, 71, did not survive the combination of automobile and helicopter crashes. Helicopter pilot Dennis Enders, 53, of Broken Bow, Okla., was in serious condition Saturday at Northwest Medical Center of Washington County in Springdale. Paramedic Clayton Bratt, 56, of Hulbert, Okla., was in fair condition Saturday in the same hospital. Nurse Dee Ann Miller, 40, of Bentonville, was in fair condition Saturday in the surgical intensive care unit of Northwest Medical Center of Benton County in Bentonville.

The crash was the eighth accident since 2001 involving an Air Evac helicopter. Before 2001, Air Evac had only four accidents dating back to its beginning in 1985.

In terms of the number of aircraft, Air Evac is one of the top five air medical services in the country, according to Dawn Mancuso, spokeswoman for the Association of Air Medical Services in Alexandria, Va., a leading industry group.

The company operates in portions of 11 states and has a fleet of 43 aircraft. There are seven Air Evac bases in Arkansas.

Calls for Air Evac flights have probably not increased in Northwest Arkansas cities, said Sam Clardy, Springdale Fire Department Battalion Chief and Lowell Fire Captain. The distance to the hospital is too short for a helicopter to help, he said.

"But out in the rural part of the county, you get more flights," Clardy said. "It's a lot farther to the hospital from there."

People who have a membership with Air Evac also are more likely to be air-lifted, Clardy said.

Arthurs said the company owns the world's third largest fleet of Bell 206 LongRanger helicopters, the workhorse of the air medical service industry.

According to Robert E. Breiling, a Florida-based consultant who analyzes business aircraft accidents, in 2003 -- the latest year for which statistics are available -- the accident rate across the helicopter EMS field was 7.45 per 100,000 flight hours, lower than the rate in the 1980s, but much higher than it was in the mid-'90s.

In 2003, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, Air Evac experienced two accidents with no injuries, one of which was a training flight, resulting in an accident rate for the company of 6.30 accidents per 100,000 flight hours.

"I believe that we are as safe as anybody in the industry," Arthurs said.

Air Evac helicopters have been involved in five fatalities since 1985, although not all have been the result of a crash. A security guard was killed in 2001 when he walked into the moving tail rotor of a helicopter at a hospital in Quincy, Ill.

Last week's crash was the first Air Evac fatality in the state, but it was the fourth accident in Arkansas for the company's helicopters, including one in 1998 in Springdale that injured three crew members.

Air Evac is in good standing with the state, according to David Taylor, director of the EMS and Trauma Systems Division of the Arkansas Department of Health. There has been one complaint against Air Evac lodged with the Health Department, Taylor said, but it did not involve a safety issue.

Shawn Rogers, emergency medical services director for the Oklahoma State Department of Health, told the Oologah, Okla., newspaper last week that Oklahoma is closely watching Air Evac because of the two latest crashes.

The first definitive study of the air medical service industry was done in 1988 by the National Transportation Safety Board and found the accident rate between 1982 and 1986 to be 13.42 crashes per 100,000 flight hours.

Pilots were taking off in marginal conditions -- bad weather or at night -- and taking unnecessary risks, the study found. The industry began rigorous self-regulation and the accident rate was reduced to 3.14 per 100,000 flight hours.

The Federal Aviation Administration watched as the rate of accidents for helicopter emergency medical service began to rise from its low point in 1996. By August 2004, the accident rate had risen to its highest in 17 years and the agency decided to take action, said Roland Herwig, an FAA spokesman in the agency's Oklahoma City office.

"We formed an FAA and industry and operator task force, the people who build, people who fly (helicopters)," Herwig said.

In January, the FAA's task force found many of the same accident-causing factors found in the 1988 study were causing the recent upswing in accidents.

Most of the accidents were caused by pilots flying in bad weather and at night.

"The FAA got the task force together and saw risk management was a lot of it," Herwig said.

The FAA recommendations for the industry included providing risk-management training for flight crews, better training on flying into weather or at night and better technology such as night vision goggles.

Arthurs said Air Evac participated with the task force and agreed the recommendations are good ones.

However, he said the company hasn't specifically acted on the recommendations because it already has a rigorous training program in place.

"We actually almost every month improve our pilot training," Arthurs said.

Arthurs acknowledged the company must make flights in order to stay in business, but like most other helicopter emergency medical service companies, Air Evac attempts to insulate pilots from market pressures by giving them the last word on whether to fly.

When a call comes in requesting Air Evac service, pilots make decisions based only on flying conditions. They are not given details of the medical situation, whether it is a major trauma at a highway accident or a short hospital-to-hospital transfer flight, Arthurs said.

That prevents flight crews using potential patients' medical conditions as a factor when deciding whether to fly in marginal conditions, Arthurs said.

 
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