NTSB Calls for Radar Altimeters for EMS Helicopter Night Ops
The NTSB recommended Dec. 21, that the FAA should require helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) operators to install radar altimeters in all helicopters used in HEMS night operations.
The board also wants the FAA to ensure that the minimum equipment lists for helicopters used in emergency medical services operations require that radar altimeters be operable during flights conducted at night.
Just want to second what Gomer Pylot said. My company(EMS) already has the Radalt mandatory requirement and it is a NO-GO item for night ops. Another case of the NTSB/FAA slamming the door loudly after the horse is back in the barn. Have a safe 2008. Alt.3
This happened because of the crash of an EC-135 into the Potomac in 2005 - check the NTSB report just published. The Rad Alt was unserviceable on the aircraft which flew into the water just past the Woodrow Wilson bridge at night.
I rest my case. Why can't we just fly the helicopter SIDS to the low altitude helo route and when we get near our destination, shoot a helo WAAS precision approach to 200 feet? Because it sounds like too much work for the FAA, I think.
Got to love the Feds, always a day late and a dollar short; most large 135 EMS operators mandated their own restrictive measures years ago. Air Methods itself imposed a no-fly ruke at night if Rad Alt not operational in the wake of the DC accident.
Mr.Lappos, your conclusions are partially incorrect regarding the WAAS approach, it's not too much work, it's too expensive and unless rendered mandatory there are only so many programs willing to front that expense.
Like I said before I believe EMS ought to be IFR period.
Mr. Lappos, I understand your post and I know what a WAAS approach looks like, I flew a WAAS capable Bell 430 until last September, ironically in EMS, because the program and the company believed IFR was (I concur fully) the solution for a safe operation in EMS. The spirit of my reply was directed towards those 135 operators (ironically Saturday night crash was one of those low cost operations) that refuse to spend the money to improve their safety record.
However, it must be mentioned that any type of precision approach would have not saved that crew.
Three main points for EMS:
1) IFR, with a developed network of WX reporting stations (AWOS3, ASOS) at any location where an EMS helicopter is based.
2) WAAS GPS Approaches at those locations and rural helipads.
3) Helicopters performance sufficient to carry at least one patient and the fuel to fly IFR to an alternate.
Those would be mandatory.
Draconian control over anyone who knowingly busts WX minimums, that include pressure on the part of the customer (the hospital).
ACTIVE, not database fed EGPWS systems and obstacle warning systems good enough to detect power lines.
If they want to play they need to play right.
I can tell you that the costs involved shall pale compared to a legal settling after three lives are lost.
Fly_For_Fun Aser I take it that you have done lots of HEMS flights into fields?
Nop, just a couple hundreds hours in IMC/VMC at night (not hems) and just some secondary tranfers at Night VFR from helipad to helipad, always in twin engine ifr aircraft. I'm not saying the radioaltimeter is bad, just that is not a key to prevent a crash, as nick and tottigol pointed out there are more important things.
Preventative though, surely....... which is traditionally better.
Not really, it only tells you how far you are above the surface immediately below you. If you flew across the English Channel at Night/IMC the Rad Alt would be reading 500' right up to the impact with the cliff face. It can give a false sense of security in an uncontrolled environment.
Pardon my ignorance but what is WAAS, sounds interesting. I have flown HEMS but not at night the UK frowns upon it, have however flown lots of NVG and in the UK they are still not approved by the CAA for HEMS Ops last i knew, what do the FAA and you US pilots think of NVG in a HEMS environment?