SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., Dec. 12, 2011 – With two deadly accidents making headlines in the same week, air ambulance safety is under scrutiny. And one international air medical transport company president thinks it should be.
The National Transportation and Safety Board recently issued its probable cause report for a July 2010 West Texas incident involving an air ambulance operator. The report concluded that pilot error and possible fatigue caused the Cessna 421 to plunge just minutes after takeoff, killing all five people on board. Just days after the findings were announced, a forced landing of another medical transport company’s twin-engine plane claimed three more lives.
Although neither incident was related to Angel MedFlight, company CEO Jeremy Freer stresses that safety differences do exist and individuals seeking medical flights should know how to identify good – and bad – practices.
“We extend our deepest sympathies to the families of the people who died,” says Freer. “Avoidable incidents that result in loss of life just shouldn’t happen. Many people may not be aware of the enormous quality and safety discrepancies that can exist among air medical transport operators. We want to give people the tools to make informed decisions.”
Fixed-wing medical flights are predominantly facility-to-facility transfers for patients who are too ill or injured to fly commercially. Patients are flown on medically-equipped aircraft and cared for by medical personnel, but that’s where similarities among some operators end.
“Air medical transport isn’t like the airlines, where you can feel pretty confident that carriers are operating near the same levels of safety and excellence,” says Freer. “Sadly, there are some operators or brokers who cut corners. Individuals looking into medical flights should research the companies they’re calling and ask questions regarding operations, safety, aircraft, equipment and crew.”
Because of the highly-specialized nature of medical transportation, medical flights can cost thousands of dollars, leading many patients and families to base decisions on cost.
“Unfortunately, a lot of times it comes down to the dollar amount and cheapest doesn’t always mean safest,” says Freer. “We are not the cheapest in the industry and frankly, I’m proud of that. We invest in top-of-the-line aircraft, medical equipment and personnel and we truly feel that we have the best program out there.”
Angel MedFlight utilizes Learjet 35s and 60s equipped with advanced safety equipment including Global Positioning System navigation, weather radar, and the latest collision and terrain avoidance systems, including TCAS, TCAS-II and TAWS. Pilots have extensive flight experience and adhere to strict duty schedules to enhance safety and minimize fatigue. Critical care flight nurses and paramedics are highly-trained and flight-experienced and work in nurse/paramedic tandems on every flight. Angel MedFlight has an excellent safety record.