Delays in Meeting Statutory Requirements and Oversight Challenges Reduce FAA's Opportunities To Enhance HEMS Safety, Memorandum for the Federal Aviation Administrator, April 8, 2015   [open pdf - 401KB]

"The Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) industry safely transports over 400,000 patients in the United States each year, frequently in challenging conditions, including night flight, poor weather, low visibility, and landing at unfamiliar accident sites. The industry has grown significantly since 1980 when there were fewer than 50 air ambulances operating in the United States. In 2014 that number had grown to over 1,500 specialized air medical helicopters used by 75 different companies. As the industry grew, so did the number of accidents with 2008 being the deadliest year on record for HEMS operations with 29 fatalities. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) subsequently recommended significant changes to the industry, which may have helped lower the number of HEMS accidents, but fatalities and injuries continue to occur. FAA and Congress have continued efforts to enhance safety in the HEMS industry. FAA issued its final HEMS rule in February 2014. Additionally, Congress passed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA), which required that FAA take specific actions to reduce the HEMS accident rate. In light of these efforts, the Ranking Member of the House Aviation Subcommittee requested that we review FAA's progress in improving air ambulance safety. Accordingly, our audit objectives were to evaluate (1) FAA's progress in meeting requirements for HEMS operations cited in the 2012 FMRA and (2) FAA's implementation of other actions, including oversight enhancements, to reduce the HEMS accident rate. We conducted this review in accordance with generally accepted Government auditing standards. Exhibit A details our scope and methodology, and exhibit B lists the specific organizations we visited or contacted."

Report Number:
Federal Aviation Administration Report Number AV-2015-039
Public Domain
Retrieved From:
Transportation Research Board: http://www.trb.org/
Media Type:
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