A medical helicopter can be dispatched to a scene that is in no way designed for safe landing. Most helicopter accidents seem to occur between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. in low visibility conditions and at a time when fatigue can certainly play a significant role. These variables definitely combine to create a deadly combination. So a pilot most likely needs specialized equipment to assist in the navigation process. Night goggles, terrain sensing equipment, radar altimeters can definitely help. The big obstacle has been expense and availability. The military has first priority for night goggles. Pilot training is expensive as well. With the new rules mandate, how are hospitals going to finance an already expensive operation? Accidents are costly. How will the industry cope with the new demands?
The FAA would like to see the culture of the industry changed. It has proposed changing the terminology of “helicopter EMS” to “helicopter air ambulance” to try to eliminate the reference to “emergency.” I really don’t see how this would make a difference. The word “ambulance” is definitely associated with the concept of “emergency.” Pilots, nurses, hospital administrators and the public know well that this is a vehicle that has been dispatched to an emergency. It is the same as denying the sirens of the fire trucks are not signaling an emergency as they race down the street. Care to comment?