After decades of safe operation, last summer Angel Flight organizations had by August seen three fatal crashes; this summer some of their volunteer pilot requirements will change. A recent letter co-signed by Angel Flight Mid-Atlantic Chairman (AFMA), Steve Craven; president of Mercy Medical Airlift, Ed Boyer; and Executive Director for Airlift Hope America, Jim Smith written to volunteer pilots listed new pilot qualifications/safety standards effective July 15, 2009. Pilots wishing to participate with those organizations must now have a minimum total time of 500 hours (unchanged) with no less than 400 hours (up from 250) as Pilot in Command with a minimum 50 hours in make and model. Other qualifications for any aircraft to be used for Angel Flights include a minimum of $1 million liability insurance with no less than $100,000 per seat. (There are other requirements, check with the specific groups you're interested in joining.) Contacted Friday for comment, AFMA's Craven told AVweb, "While we had been contemplating increased pilot qualifications and insurance requirements for some time, we were motivated by the fact that after 30+ years, millions of miles and hundreds of thousands of needy patients flown safely, last year the Angel Flight world experienced its first fatal accident." The letter also announced future steps intended to establish a "culture of safety" within the participating organizations.
Mandatory annual recertifications, plus mandatory affirmation that all qualifications are met prior to an accepted flight, will be "built into our flight coordination system," states the letter. The letter also outlines a series of programs intended to develop a "culture of safety" within the Angel Flight community. Safety programs to include an online safety forum, a separate online safety page and a pilot mentorship program to help initiate new pilots into the organization with an emphasis on safety. "We intend to create a positive culture of safety in our organizations with experienced safety focused volunteer pilots," said Craven.