The National Transportation Safety Board issued 19 new recommendations for helicopter emergency medical services.
The 19 recommendations include 10 recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration to address the issues of improved pilot training; collection and analysis of flight, weather, and safety data; flight data monitoring; development of low-altitude airspace in infrastructure; and the use of dual pilots, autopilots, and NVIS. Two recommendations are to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to evaluate the current helicopter EMS reimbursement rate structure and its relationship to patient transport safety. Two recommendations are to Federal Interagency Committee on Emergency Medical Services to address coordination and integration of helicopter emergency medical transport into local and regional emergency medical systems and selection of the most appropriate emergency transportation mode for victims of trauma. And five recommendations are to public operators to improve pilot training, flight data monitoring; and the use of dual pilots, autopilots and NVIS.
Helicopter EMS operations include an estimated 750 helicopters, 20 operators, and 60 hospital-based programs. 2008 was the deadliest year on record, with 12 accidents and 29 fatalities. In response to this increase in fatal accidents, the NTSB placed the issue of helicopter EMS operations on its Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements.