During the annual industry-sponsored Heli-Expo held recently in Dallas, Airbus Helicopters (Airbus) and STAT MedEvac announced that the Pennsylvania-based medical transport service will be the first in North America to operate the Helionix digital avionics suite. This was reported by Vertical Magazine. Airbus Helicopters claims that the new suite along with a newly designed helicopter cockpit aboard the H135 will help improve the pilot’s situational analysis and reduce pilot workload. The goal for the new technology and physical changes is to maximize safety and reduce the risk of crashing.

In a previous issue of the Report, we described the particularly dangerous nature of the helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) industry. It was noted that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) incorporated the National Transportation and Safety Board’s (NTSB) recommendations in its new, stricter flight regulations and procedures in 2014, coming after a deadly decade. It was reported that from 2006 to 2015 a crash occurred in the U.S. every 40 days. The NTSB’s recommendations were based, in part, on information analyzed by the Air Medical Physician Association. The group examined HEMS accidents that occurred over a 20-year period and determined the leading causes for most accidents included the time of day, environmental factors (such as weather conditions, flight altitude and geographic location) and time pressure due to the patient’s condition. Robert Sumwalt, an NTSB Board Member, believes the regulations implemented in 2014 were a good first step. However, he has urged the industry and regulators to incorporate additional measures designed to confront the leading causes of HEMS crashes. Some of the additional measures Sumwalt advocated for include better technology and more training for pilots operating and relying on the improved technology.

Helionix offers two computers that include up to four electronic displays designed to improve pilots’ situational awareness. It also provides a four-axis autopilot and a Traffic Advisory System to assist pilots in detecting and avoiding other aircraft. Neither Airbus nor STAT MedEvac have discussed pilot training for the new technology and cockpit. However, Vertical Magazine notes that Airbus has a state-of-the-art simulator that is customizable to provide realistic scenarios for all helicopter missions. The company believes that its latest products will significantly enhance helicopter safety and is putting them to the test in a segment of the industry fraught with unique safety challenges such as time constraints and intense pressure to fly in less than favorable environmental conditions.

If you need more information on this subject contact Mike Andrews, a lawyer in in our firm’s Personal Injury & Products Liability Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Mike.Andrews@beasleyallen.com. Mike handles aviation litigation for the firm.

Sources: Vertical Magazine, Airbus Helicopters Inc., Jere Beasley Report (December 2016), CNN

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