Mommas, don’t let your babies grow up to be medical helicopter pilots. The Washington Post reports the cut-throat, private, for-profit $2.5 billion industry is getting more dangerous, due to crashes and ill-advised flights in bad weather. In 2008, 23 crew members and five patients died, making it the deadliest year ever:
Some calamities were the result of pilot errors. But many were predictable, pilots and safety experts say, and could have been prevented with stronger oversight and better technology.
“We’ve been killing ourselves the same way for 20 years,” said veteran pilot Ed MacDonald. “There’s not a whole lot new about these crashes.”
The story says the Federal Aviation Administration has been reluctant to regulate the industry, and treats the medical helicopter field in the same, moderately hands-off way it does “low-fare carriers to Disney World.” The FAA’s director of flight safety standards John M. Allen responds “Even one crash is too many. But there’s a fine line on how far does government go to impact business.”