FAA Proposes Changes Following Deadly Medical Chopper Crash in Oklahoma

Friday, October 8th 2010, 10:57 pm
By: News 9

Staff and Wire Reports

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The FAA has proposed stricter rules for running medical helicopters following deadly crashes in Oklahoma and across the U.S.

The proposed changes came after an EagleMed helicopter crashed in Kingfisher County in July. Pilot Al Harrison and nurse Ryan Duke were killed.

One month later, three others died in a medical helicopter crash in Arkansas. There were four deadly air ambulance crashes over the summer.

The deadliest year ever for medical helicopter crashes was 2008 when 24 people were killed in six accidents.

The FAA wanted to boost safety precautions, saying right now air medical teams too often take risks in bad weather, at night and in unfamiliar terrain.

"We're sending these pilots out on these dangerous missions without necessary safety equipment to do what we want them to do," aviation attorney Gary Robb said.

The FAA's proposed changes included:

  • Equipping air ambulances with helicopter terrain awareness and warning systems
  • More safety briefings
  • Stricter guidelines for responding in bad weather
  • Requiring pilots to be certified to fly using instruments

If the FAA's proposals are approved, the estimated cost to the air ambulance industry would be $136 million with a total benefit of $160 million over ten years.