Fuel exhaustion may have possibly led to the catastrophic crash of a medical helicopter that occurred in Clay County, Missouri on Friday. A pilot, two medical crew members, and a patient tragically lost their lives when the helicopter descended in a remote area outside Mosby — just one mile short of its refueling stop.
The low fuel hypothesis is merely one possible factor being looked into by federal transportation officials. NTSB investigators and FAA officials may need up to a year to determine the official cause of the accident.
The helicopter, a Eurocopter AS-350 owned by Air Methods and flown by its subsidiary, LifeNet, had departed from St. Joseph, picked up a patient in Bethany, and was headed for a hospital in the northern suburbs of Kansas City. The patient, 58, was to be transferred by air from Harrison County Community Hospital in Bethany to Liberty Hospital.
A topic in the air ambulance world that’s being discussed among air medical crews in all 50 states is the new bi-partisan bill, S. 1407, that’s – rather miraculously – made its way to the floors of the embattled U.S. Congress. The bill, introduced by Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington and Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine aspires for a new level of safety regulations for air ambulances, based on the higher standards that are already in place in states like Washington and Maine.
S. 1407, the Air Ambulance Medicare Accreditation and Accountability Act, would tie Medicare reimbursement to the new safety standards, restructuring the current reimbursement system to reflect air ambulance services’ investments in safety. Consequently, this would provide even more motivation for air medical services all over the United States to increase safety levels above and beyond their already high standing.
A proposed garbage transfer facility that would be built less than half a mile from the end of one of America’s busiest runways is drawing strong criticism. The site is to be constructed just just 2,206 feet – much, much lower than the FAA’s normal minimum distance of 10,000 feet – from LaGuardia Airport’s Runway 13/31.
Coincidentally, the waterside facility that would sit 2,200 feet away from Runway 13/31 would handle 2,200 tons of trash a day, as it transfers New York City’s garbage from trucks to barges. Although the trash will be stored in sealed containers and the overall area is designed to be enclosed, detractors say birds will be able to see and smell the garbage passing through, and are much more likely to be drawn into the path of aircraft taking off and landing.
Flight attendants are well trained to respond to emergency landings and evacuations. Yet, most flight attendants will never experience an emergency landing or evacuation for their entire career. On the other hand, in-flight medical emergencies are a much more common occurrence.Dr. Melissa L.P. Mattison and Dr. Mark Zeidel of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston published an article this month in the online Journal of the American Medical Association suggesting a series of across-the-board improvements to ensure airline passengers receive the best level of care in the unfortunate but inevitable event of an unexpected medical emergency in the air.
The doctors pointed out that in recent years, healthcare has improved by focused increasingly on standardization of processes of care. Interestingly, some major concepts in this movement originated in the airline industry. This standardization has improved aviation safety so much that there were no fatalities on U.S. domestic flights last year.
A brand new flight technology with the potential to save countless lives was utilized for the first time on an air ambulance in Iowa last week.
On Tuesday, Mercy One, a medical helicopter operating out of Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines, received the call to rescue the 15-year old victim of a rollover automobile crash. The mission was to pick up the critically-injured patient from the Chariton Airport and fly her to the medical center 55 miles away for further care.
Weather conditions were poor; A storm with torrential rains had rolled into the region, bringing winds of reducing the pilot’s visibility to a mere 50 feet — but the crew of Mercy One had an experimental ace up their sleeves that day.