FAA Promises Action On Air Ambulance Safety

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One of the most dangerous flights you'll ever take could be one aimed at saving your life. The FAA is promising action to curb an extraordinarily high crash rate in air ambulances. More than 10 percent of the U.S. air ambulance helicopter fleet crashed in the past five years. A total of 60 people died in 84 accidents. About two-thirds of the crashes occurred in poor visibility conditions, according to USA Today. "We take this very seriously," said FAA spokesman Jim Ballough. "The public will see change." But industry groups say the issues are complex and not that easy to address. "Most of the accidents will say 'pilot error.' It's not so simple, really," said Eileen Frazer, executive director of the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems, a group that does safety audits on air ambulance operators. "There are all sorts of extenuating circumstances." By their nature, medevac flights involve more risk, with pilots landing at accidents scenes under less than ideal conditions, racing to the hospital and then putting down on a roof in the middle of a city. Thousands of lives are saved every year by the service. However, the USA Today report also cited a 2002 study by the Journal of Trauma that found that helicopters were sometimes used for less seriously injured people who could have been taken to the hospital by road.