OIG begins audit of helicopter ambulance safety

Washington – An audit has begun on the Federal Aviation Administration’s progress on improving the safety of helicopter air ambulance operations, as requested by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Aviation Subcommittee in April.

According to a Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General memo, helicopters transport more than 400,000 patients each year and sometimes encounter challenging flight conditions such as poor weather or flying at night. An increase in fatalities involving these operations occurred in 2008 – 29, compared with seven the previous year – and NTSB issued a series of safety recommendations to FAA and other stakeholders. In 2010, FAA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking in response to the recommendations but has not yet issued a final rule.

In addition, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 requires FAA to research and initiate specific strategies to improve safety in these operations, such as requiring operators to use night-vision goggles.

According to the OIG memo, auditors are evaluating FAA’s progress on meeting requirements of the 2012 act as well as other safety improvements FAA has implemented.