NTSB To Release Nine Helicopter EMS Accident Reports

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In an unusual move, the NTSB on Thursday will release four probable-cause reports all at once, together with interim factual reports on five other accidents. All nine of the accidents involved helicopters that were engaged in emergency medical flights, all of them occurred since December 2007, and all of them were fatal, resulting in 35 deaths. The NTSB says that helicopter EMS safety has been an "ongoing concern," and the board will hold hearings in Washington, D.C., Feb. 3 to 6, to examine the issue. The board will hear expert testimony from invited witnesses. The public is invited to attend, and the proceedings will be webcast live. The issues to be discussed include flight operations and aircraft safety equipment. In January 2006, the board released a special report on the safety of helicopter EMS operations, recommended changes in training and oversight, and also suggested that all helicopter EMS aircraft should have terrain awareness and warning systems installed.

The safety board also added helicopter EMS safety to its Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements for 2008.