Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Vanderbilt LifeFlight Crew Meets Child Saved

Accidents involving children are the worst...

 LifeFlight nurses who lifted off from Smyrna responded to the accident and found Mason on his side, still in his car seat nearly 30 feet away from the car

The seat belt restraint had been severed during the accident, sending Mason flying onto Highway 231. When LifeFlight medics looked at the car they couldn't believe their eyes. There was barely anything left of the car Mason and his father were driving. They transported Mason to Vanderbilt Children's Hospital after putting in a breathing tube and supporting his fragile body.

Click here for full story...

Would We Be Ready?

 "The employee said the pilot then simultaneously brought the helicopter up off the pad and forward. He described the takeoff as "kind of shaky." He said that on other flights, pilots will normally bring the helicopter into a hover, do an instrument check, and then start forward flight. However, in the three times he had flown with the accident pilot, he always took off without hovering."

This is an account of an engine failure in a Bell 206, in the Gulf Of Mexico. While it does not involve EMS, it DOES involve a helicopter many of us work in. There are lessons to be learned here...

"The following is an INTERIM FACTUAL SUMMARY of this accident investigation. A final report that includes all pertinent facts, conditions, and circumstances of the accident will be issued upon completion, along with the Safety Board's analysis and probable cause of the accident:"



On October 9, 2013, about 0720 central daylight time, a Bell 206L-3, N54LP, was substantially damaged when it impacted water shortly after takeoff from the Main Pass 107D oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. The commercial pilot was fatally injured and the three passengers were seriously injured. The helicopter was registered to and operated by Panther Helicopters, Inc., Belle Chasse, Louisiana. A company visual flight rules flight plan was filed for the flight that was destined for the Belle Chasse Heliport (06LA), Belle Chasse, Louisiana. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the business flight that was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135.

The purpose of the flight was a routine crew change at the MP107D oil platform. The pilot and three oil platform employees departed 06LA about 0633 and flew direct to the platform. The crew change consisted of dropping the three platform employees off, picking up three other employees, then returning to 06LA. After landing on the platform, the pilot did not shut down the helicopter down and stayed at the controls with the main rotor turning until the crew change was complete.

A witness was standing on the MP108E oil platform, which was about 300-400 yards from MP107D. He had a clear and unobstructed view of the MP107D platform and saw the helicopter sitting on the helipad with its main rotor blades turning. The helicopter was facing east-northeast. The witness said that he saw three people get off the helicopter and then three other people get on the helicopter. He described the weather as "stale" and the wind sock was "limp."

About 1 to 2 minutes later, the witness observed the helicopter pull up into a 3 to 4-foot-high hover over the helipad and make a slight bearing change toward the east. He said at that point, everything was completely normal with the helicopter. The helicopter then moved forward and started to take off toward the east. The witness said as soon as the helicopter cleared the helipad's skirting, he saw a flash and a large (10-foot-high x 10-foot-wide) "poof" or "cloud" of white smoke come from directly under the main rotor blades near the exhaust section of the helicopter. This was followed by a loud, high-pitched, screeching noise, as if the engine were being revved up. The witness said this "poof" of smoke occurred when the helicopter was parallel to a flare boom that extended directly out from the platform and was positioned on the north side of the helipad. The witness said that after he saw the "poof" of smoke, the helicopter nosed over toward the water. The helicopter cleared the helipad's skirting and did not strike the flare boom as it descended.

The witness said he saw the helicopter's emergency floats fully expand before it impacted the water. The helicopter hit the water hard with the main rotors still turning; became completely submerged and rolled inverted. The wintess could see the helicopter's skids near the surface of the water and noted that one emergency float (he could not recall which one) had completely separated from the helicopter.

The witness did not see anyone coming to the surface and used his VHF handheld radio to issue a "may-day-call." He also directed a field boat, which was at the base of the MP108E platform, to the helicopter. He said that by the time the boat arrived, two deck hands were already stripped down and jumped into the jellyfish infested water to help the occupants of the helicopter. Although one of the deckhands had an allergic reaction to the jellyfish stings, they were able to get three of the four occupants out of the helicopter and onto the field boat. The pilot's feet were "caught up in the controls" and it took about 15 minutes for them to get him freed.

The witness said he did not see any methane gas being vented from the flare boom on the morning of the accident; however, he did see a large (size of an automobile) "methane cloud" coming from the flare boom the day before the accident between 12 and 5 pm. The methane cloud was located right where he saw the poof of white smoke on the day of the accident. The witness said he has seen methane being vented from the MP107D flare boom on several occasions. He said they vent "a lot of gas" several times a week.

In a telephone conversation, a platform employee, who was a passenger on the helicopter, stated that he had just completed a 14-day "hitch" on the MP107D oil platform and was headed back to Louisiana. On the morning of the accident, he and the two other platform employees prepared the platform for a crew change and waited for the helicopter to arrive. The employee said that after the pilot landed, he briefly talked to one of the on coming employees about a hunting trip. He then loaded his bags and was the last one to board the helicopter. The employee said he got in the helicopter via the left rear door and sat in the left seat, facing forward. The passenger then donned an inflatable life vest, put on a headset, and fastened his seatbelt. He tugged on the seatbelt to make sure it was secure and snug.

The employee said that once everyone was fastened in, they gave the pilot a "thumbs-up" and the pilot prepared to depart. At this point, everything regarding the flight was "normal."

The employee said the pilot lifted the helicopter up off the platform and began forward flight. When the helicopter was over the water, he heard a loud noise overhead as if the transmission was coming a part. The other passenger that was seated next to him asked, "What's that?" The employee told him to "hold on," and the next thing he knew they hit the water with a "big splash." Prior to impact, he did not hear any alarms going off in the cockpit and did not remember the emergency floats expanding. The pilot did not say anything during the accident sequence.

The employee stated that he may have passed out for a few minutes. When he regained consciousness, he realized he was out of his seatbelt (he did not recall unfastening the buckle). The helicopter had rolled on-to its left side, and he was trying to find the door. When he tried to stand up, he realized he couldn't feel his legs. At this point, the passenger, who had been seated next to him had opened the right door and was climbing out. Although water was entering the cabin, he and the passenger in the front left seat were able to keep their heads above water. There was no movement or response from the pilot.

The passenger said that he sat there for a few minutes, and when the helicopter began to roll inverted, he was able to push himself out of the right rear door where the other rear seat passenger had been sitting. He then tried to inflate his life vest, but when he pulled on the inflation-lanyard it would not inflate. He said that he was not familiar with this particular model vest and he did not try to self-inflate the vest. Shortly after, the front seat passenger was able to get out of the helicopter. The two rescuers who dove in the water from the life boat were trying to get the pilot out, but his seatbelt was "too tight," and his foot was stuck in the windshield.

The employee said that while the pilot was being extracted, the other rear seat passenger was dragged to the life boat via a life ring. At this time, the employee saw a life vest floating in the water. He was able to inflate it and used it to support himself until he was rescued. The employee said he was in a "panic state of mind" and didn't recall getting onto the boat.

In a telephone conversation, another platform employee, who was also a passenger on the accident flight, stated that he had just completed a 14-day "hitch" on the MP107D oil platform. He said that on the morning of the accident, he and the two other employees prepared the platform to be turned over to the on-coming crew. While eating breakfast, he heard the pilot make a radio call that he was 10 minutes out with three onboard. The employee said the platform's lead operator responded to the pilot, and told him he had a "green deck" to land. The employee then grabbed his bags and headed up to the helipad. After the helicopter landed, the three on-coming crew members got off the helicopter and retrieved their bags from the cargo bay. The employee said he placed his bags in the cargo bay and walked around the front of the helicopter. The pilot gave him a "thumbs-up" and a smile, and then the employee got in the helicopter. He sat in the rear of the helicopter on the right side, facing forward. He donned the provided inflatable life vest, a headset, and fastened his seatbelt assembly. The employee said another employee sat next to him on the left side, forward facing seat and the other sat in the front left seat.

The employee said he did not talk to the pilot or notice anything unusual about his behavior. After the crew was onboard, the pilot asked if they were ready to go and they responded they were ready. The employee said the pilot then simultaneously brought the helicopter up off the pad and forward. He described the takeoff as "kind of shaky." He said that on other flights, pilots will normally bring the helicopter into a hover, do an instrument check, and then start forward flight. However, in the three times he had flown with the accident pilot, he always took off without hovering.

The employee said that once the helicopter moved off the helipad and over the water, there was a "winding noise" then a "pop" sound. His first instinct was that there was a problem with the transmission. He did not hear alarms going off in the cockpit or see any annunciator lights. The helicopter then nosed over at an angle toward the water. The employee said that as the helicopter descended, the emergency floats expanded just before they hit the water. He described the impact as a "big ole crash like landing on concrete." The employee said that he then heard moans of pain coming from the other men onboard and that water started to enter the cabin. The helicopter had rolled on to its left side. He then undid his seatbelt and opened the right cabin door. The employee said he turned left and asked the passenger next to him if he was okay, and he responded that he could not feel his legs. The employee said the passenger had come completely out of his seatbelt during the impact.

The employee exited the helicopter and held onto the skid of the helicopter because when he pulled on his life vest inflation-lanyard, it did not expand. He said the rear seat passenger's life vest also wouldn't inflate but the passenger's vest on the front seat did inflate. He was not sure about the pilot's life vest.

The employee said he saw the lift boat and told the rescuers there were three more people on board. He was able to get onto the life boat, where he laid down until help arrived.

The employee reiterated several times there was nothing mechanically wrong with the helicopter until they started to takeoff. He said the platform was not venting methane that morning and the wind was calm.

In a telephone conversation, one of the platform employees, who had just been dropped off at the platform, stated that he and the two other platform employees arrived at Panther Helicopter's facility in Belle Chasse, Louisiana, on the morning of the accident around 0600. He said all three of them signed in and waited for the helicopter to be ready. When they were ready to board, he got in the front left seat, put on his life vest and fastened his seatbelt. The pilot made sure everyone was wearing their life vests and seatbelts before they departed. While en route, the employee said he briefly spoke to the pilot and he did not notice anything unusual with his demeanor. He said the helicopter was operating fine and there were no indications of any problems.

The employee said that after a normal landing, he exited the helicopter, retrieved his bags from the cargo bay, and went downstairs into the platform housing. There he had a quick changeover briefing with the departing-lead. Several minutes later, he heard the helicopter's engine spool up as it prepared to takeoff. Everything sounded normal until he heard a "pop" and a high-pitched whine followed by a low pitch whine as if the engine were spooling down. He described the noise as a turbine or compressor winding down. At that point, the employee knew something was wrong and ran outside. Once outside, he saw the helicopter in the water on its right side and one passenger was exiting the helicopter. The employee said he went back inside and called the Coast Guard, Panther Helicopters, and his senior management.

According to the operator, the helicopter was equipped with a SkyConnect tracking system. The last registered altitude of the helicopter was about 141 feet.


The pilot held a private pilot certificate for airplane single-engine land and a commercial pilot certificate for rotorcraft-helicopter. His last Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) second class medical was issued on January 10, 2013. According to the operator, the pilot had accrued a total of 3,450 total hours; of which 3,423 hours were in helicopters, and 177 hours were in the same make/model as the accident helicopter.

The pilot was hired by Panther on June 17, 2013. His training was conducted by Panther in the Bell 206 helicopter. The pilot successfully completed his CFR Part 135.293 and 135.299 FAA check ride on July 25, 2013.


N54LP was a 1991 Bell 206L-3 helicopter with serial number 51466. The single-engine helicopter was powered by an Allison M250-C30P turbo-shaft engine with serial number CAE 895524, which drove a two-bladed main rotor system and a two-bladed tail rotor. The helicopter was configured to carry one pilot and six passengers.

According to the operator, the helicopter was maintained in accordance with the manufacturer's continuous inspection program. The helicopter's last inspection (event 2) was completed on October 3, 2013. The helicopter's total time at the time of the accident was 11,238 hours.


At 0600, weather conditions at the Belle Chasse heliport, Belle Chasse, Louisiana, about 72 nautical miles northwest of the accident site were calm wind, visibility 10 miles and clear skies, with a temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

At 0655, weather conditions at the New Orleans Naval Air Station (NBG), Louisiana, about 72 miles northwest of the accident site were calm winds, visibility 10 statute miles with shallow fog, few clouds at 5,000 feet, temperature 57 degrees F, dew point 60 degrees F, and altimeter 30.06 inches of Mercury.


According to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, the Gulf of Mexico is divided into three primary subdivisions: Western Gulf of Mexico, Central Gulf of Mexico, and Eastern Gulf of Mexico. The three subdivisions are further divided into areas and blocks. The blocks are about 3 miles long and 3 miles wide and are used for oil/gas lease identification. There are over 2,600 offshore production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico region.

MP107D is an offshore oil production platform, (29 degrees 30 minutes north latitude and 88 degrees 42 minutes west longitude). MP107D is about 37 nautical miles northeast of Venice, Louisiana. MP107D features a single helideck (about 35-feet-long and 35-feet-wide).


The wreckage was recovered and moved to Panther's maintenance facility in Belle Chasse, Louisiana. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Investigator-in-Charge conducted an examination of the airframe and a visual examination of the engine on October 14, 2013. Also present for the examination were representatives of Panther, Rolls Royce, and Bell Helicopter.

The helicopter was secured and upright on a flatbed trailer. The engine, transmission, and main rotor system remained attached to the airframe. One of the main rotor blades had been cut off for transport and the other blade was fractured during the impact with the water. The section of fractured blade was never located. The tail boom had separated from the fuselage about 12-inches aft of the tail boom attachment point. The tail rotor assembly had separated aft of the elevator and was never recovered.

The entire windshield on the right side of the helicopter was missing, and a large section of windshield was missing on the left side. The forward and aft passenger doors were removed. The aft cargo bay was crushed upward from the bottom of the fuselage. Salt water corrosion was noted throughout the fuselage and engine.

Flight control continuity was confirmed for the cyclic and the collective to the main rotor system. Partial flight control continuity was established for the anti-torque pedals from the cockpit to the point where the tail boom had separated from the fuselage.

The throttle was locked in the fuel-cutoff position, which was consistent with the setting on the fuel control unit.

Examination of the pilot's 4-point shoulder harness/seatbelt assembly revealed that it was secure at all fuselage attach points. The inertial reel was locked, and stretch marks on the belt material were observed in several locations. The latching mechanism functioned normally when manually tested.

The front seat passenger's 4-point shoulder harness/seatbelt assembly was also secure at all fuselage attach points and functioned normally when manually tested. The inertial reel was not locked.

The metal seatbox for the front passenger's seats was crushed downward.

All of the rear seat shoulder harness/seatbelt assemblies were secured at their respective fuselage attachment points and the latching mechanisms functioned normally when manually tested.

A visual examination of the engine revealed that it did not sustain much impact damage; however, several large holes were observed in the exhaust collector support stack. A hole was also observed in the cowling on the right side near the area of the support stack. Oil was in the bottom of the engine pan and the forward engine mounts were slightly bent. All engine fuel, oil and pneumatic lines, and b-nut fittings were tight and no leaks were observed.

The engine was removed and shipped to Rolls Royce, where a tear down examination was conducted on November 6-7, 2013, under the supervision of an NTSB investigator. Representatives of the FAA, Rolls Royce, Panther and Bell Helicopter were also present for the exam.

The centrifugal compressor section was disassembled. The #1 and #2 bearings were examined and found to be free of any indications of distress. The compressor impellor vanes exhibited slight indications of rotational rubbing; however, no other indications of ingestion or other damage were noted.

The gearbox was disassembled. Examination of internal components did not reveal any obvious defects to gearing. The gearbox interior contained a large quantity of the magnesium gearbox case, corrosion deposits and material from the effects of sea water immersion and recovery operations.

The gas generator turbine and power turbine sections were disassembled. The Stage 1 turbine section was undamaged. The Stage 2 section revealed damage to the turbine disk blades, with one blade liberated from the blade root. All of the Stage 3 turbine disk blades were liberated at the blade roots. All of the Stage 4 turbine disk blades were damaged, with about 320 degrees of the blade shrouds detached. The blades did not breach the turbine cases.

The turbine section stages were retained and are currently undergoing metallurgical examination.


Toxicological testing was conducted by the FAA Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The pilot tested positive for Cetirizine in his blood and urine. Diphenhydramine was detected in his urine and blood (.024ug/ml, ug/g). In addition, Ibuprofen was detected in the pilot's urine.

Editor's note: During annual recurrent ground school recently, the instructor mentioned that pushing forward on the cyclic immediately following an engine failure out-of-ground-effect will result in loss of rotor rpm. The urge to push forward must be resisted until the rotor system completes it's transition from normal thrusting state (air being driven down through the rotor system) to autorotational state, (air passing up through the rotor system and driving the rotor). The indication that this transition is complete is an increase in rotor rpm...

More about Vortex Ring State...

Recently, I wrote about Vortex Ring State... Click here for that post...

This is what the aftermath of VRS looks like...

NTSB Identification: CEN14CA252
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, May 25, 2014 in Constantine, MI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/18/2014
Aircraft: AEROSPATIALE AS 365 N2 DAUPHIN, registration: N365WM
Injuries: 3 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators used data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator and did not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot reported that he positioned the helicopter to land on a westerly heading with the light and variable wind from the west. About 200 feet above the ground he noticed that the helicopter was descending so he increased the collective to arrest the rate of descent. The torque gage was increasing from 50% to 60%. He lowered the collective in attempt to get into clean air and then pulled back on the cyclic to arrest the forward airspeed. The pilot attempted to control the helicopter to the ground, maintain an upright attitude, and avoid obstacles. The helicopter landed hard and bounced once before it came to rest in the parking lot. The pilot reported no preaccident mechanical malfunctions or failures with the helicopter that would have precluded normal operation. A video of the accident sequence was reviewed and matched the pilot's statement. The video did not reveal any anomalies with the helicopter or the engine sounds. A postaccident examination revealed substantial damage to the right fuselage and lower right vertical stabilizer. The video evidence and pilot statement are consistent with the helicopter entering a vortex ring state (settling with power) condition, which allowed the helicopter to descend more rapidly than expected and land hard. The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's loss of control while entering a vortex ring state (settling with power) condition, which resulted in a hard landing.

WTF? A Fractured Rudimentary Rib?

A rudimentary rib is simply an extra one (supernumerary). They can be found on vertebrae where ribs are not supposed to be present, typically C7 and L1. The most common supernumerary ribs are found at C7, and are a well documented cause of thoracic outlet syndrome.

From The Trauma Professional's Blog... Click here to go there...

Has anyone ever found one of these on the side of the road?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Event Reports....

As an AMRM instructor, I used to peruse the aviation event reports from my company and incorporate these into case studies - there were lots - some of them were mine. As I work for a different outfit now, and am not permitted to release or discuss such events (even if they are redacted or scrubbed) I wonder about all the near-misses that are (or are not) occurring in our industry. I think talking about events that almost ended badly - aka hangar flying - go a long way toward increasing understanding, awareness, and safety. I know that telling on one's self can be uncomfortable, but many of us have had a friend who...

If you know of an event, near-miss, or "I learned about flying from that experience," you could contribute to HEMS safety by sharing a sanitized version ( no names, places names, etc) with the blog's readers in a comment.

Thanks in advance,


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

In Praise of "The Lady Who Get's Things Done"

I just had a call from my travel administrator. She realized that there was a way she could improve my next work-trip, and took the time to call me and ask about it. She has about 7 jobs, answers hundreds of messages a day, and still has time for personal service.

She sets a good example of what it is to be a service-professional.

I reflect on the fact that in almost every flying job I have had, including as a Flight-Lead and instructor pilot with B/3/160th, there has been a woman - not typically sitting in the bosses chair, but usually near that persons door - who makes the show go on. Bosses come and go, and the lady stays, and provides experience, counsel, and encouragement.

In 3/160, that lady is a civilian named Ms. Linda Rodgers. She has been there since the beginning a quarter century ago, and is there today, planning our 25th year reunion. (I imagine all the plank-holders - like me - will have a great time and get planked...) Over the years these ladies achieve legendary status, and are revered.

By the smart folks among us.

Some people come into an organization, full of piss and vinegar and themselves, and start running the mouth before engaging the brain They never know the extent to which their lives have been hobbled through thoughtlessness.

I worked for Air Logistics (now Bristow) for a bit before entering HEMS. There was a lady there too. I went to see her, and was appropriate, and even as a new-guy I got a tolerable assignment. The thing to keep in mind is that there are rules, and policies, and then there are relationships - and relationships often have a way of massaging rules...

One way of getting started might be to go find "the lady" in your organization, (if you are new) and introducing yourself, and asking if there is any advice she might have to offer.

God gave you two ears and one mouth. Don't talk to her much.... listen. I did that when starting at Omniflight with an admin assistant, and followed it up with an offer to help with a menial task - she was assembling checklist revisions and I had some free time. That two hours made me a "good guy" in her heart, and she had the ear (and affection) of the Director of Operations, Director of Maintenance, and Chief Pilot.

It doesn't take much effort to let the people in your sphere know that they are important to you, and that you truly value the things they do for you, even if it's "their job." I always ask if there is any way I can help them help me.

It doesn't always work, but most times....

safe flights....

Monday, July 21, 2014

CF5 End of Watch.

Click here for images and comments... And tell us what you think about this...

GodSpeed dear souls... I had a phone interview with NEMSPA's new president and other directors and staff a few days back. I stated that my goal as a director on NEMSPA's board would be for us to enjoy a full year with no crashes...

Sadly, it is not to be.

Thoughts From A Fellow Pilot...

Pardon Me Whilst I Vent About HEMS Crashes

First of all, I mean absolutely no disrespect to the dead or their families. I have been very close to three separate HEMS crashes, and I know the pain of loss very well. My frustrations are not directed at individuals, but rather the industry and its lack of useful standards. I am a former HEMS pilot with over 10 years at one of the large companies. I left because I was no longer willing to subject myself to the pathetic training and lousy equipment.

So here it is: I am sick and damn tired of hearing about HEMS crashes. It's like listening to a broken friggin' record. When is it going to end? 

After each and every crash, Facebook and Twitter light up with all the tributes to the fallen "heroes", and all the pomp and circumstance that goes with it. It's all well and good, and certainly well-intentioned, but it doesn't do a single damn thing to solve the problem, which normally remains the white elephant in the room. 

In recent memory, I can recall only two HEMS crashes that were due to mechanical failures (Careflight in TX, and LifeNet in AZ). Every other fatal HEMS crash I can recall has been caused solely by pi$$ poor decisions. It's easy to blame the pilot, and ultimately the pilot *IS* to blame, but the fact is there are THREE people aboard these aircraft, and each one has the authority and the right to speak up and ground the aircraft. What the hell people?? 

With the company I flew for, annual IIMC "training" consisted of about 20 minutes' worth of flying around Grand Prairie, TX with my NVGs down and turned off. It was always done begrudgingly and by a "training captain" who always made it completely obvious that there was somewhere else he'd rather be. Nowhere in my training was there EVER any discussion about Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM), CRM, or abort criteria. NEVER. 

I think it is criminally negligent for these companies to continue to operate hundreds of thousands of flights annually, while doing absolutely nothing to sufficiently address the leading cause of HEMS crashes (I refuse to call them "accidents", because there is nothing accidental about them). As a point of irony, my former employer, who averaged a little more than one fatal crash per year for the 10 years I was with them,  loves to brag about their Level III SMS program. What a joke! Just more proof that the FAA is only concerned about eye candy and couldn't care less about substantive training and REAL safety measures. 

My wish for all of you who are still out flying the HEMS line, is to err to the side of extreme caution. Use the most conservative response rule every time, all the time. At no time is ANYTHING you're doing worth coming home in a box. There is NEVER any excuse for pushing the envelope, be it with regards to weather, aircraft performance, or human performance. Nobody is shooting at you, and contrary to what many seem to want to believe, you are very, very rarely the "difference between life and death". In 10 years and thousands of flights, I can count on one hand the number of times we actually "saved a life" with the helicopter. You are a CONVENIENCE 99% of the time!! Quit hanging your azses out on the line for no good reason! 



Being stupid, pushing a bad situation and winding up dead does not in any way make you a "hero" in my book! It simply makes you a dead dumbass with good intentions! 


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Expecting The Unexpected...

You can't think of everything - so you have to expect anything...

Chris is a neighbor of mine, and one cool dude.

He is an Army Ranger, and has been to war several times and has some great stories to share. He talks to me, perhaps because of my time in the 160th. (It was long ago - if I tried to fly a helicopter for 10 hours straight tonight I would come out in the fetal position)

"I was riding (on the plank) on the side of a little bird," he says, "the pilot was flying by a building full of bad guys when we started taking fire..."

"I lit those assholes up, and hot brass from my weapon was spraying out into the wind. It was a hot night, and the pilot (sitting inches away on the inside) had the doors off and his flight suit zipper down with no T-shirt on. My hot brass flew through the opening and into his open suit, burning him. He let go of the stick to dig out the brass from his suit, and we dove for the dirt. I reached inside to grab something and he slugged me, then grabbed the stick. He pulled up and we didn't crash.

Now I bet that no matter how many contingency plans they came up with, no one thought about hot brass in an open flight suit... We try to think of everything, but it's impossible. So we have to keep an open mind and expect the unexpected. Especially in the face of routine. Routine lulls us into dullness and carelessness. Complacency kills us in our comfort.

Recently, a crew was loading a large patient into an Astar. As Astars are NOT well designed for patient loading , when we have a  big patient with wires and tubes and bags of fluid and monitors and vents and pumps, it can turn into a cluster. The fact that the motor was running didn't help. As the patient was slid off the ground-ambulance crew's cot, and everyone focused on sorting out the mess in the cabin, the cot began to roll toward the tail rotor un-noticed. It came to rest against the tail rotor guard, and thank goodness the spinning tail rotor was on the other side.

These things happen. Unexpectedly.

A couple of years ago, a pilot-friend was doing an over-speed protection-system test on a Lycoming engine. He had performed this test thousands of times, moving the test switch and watching the engine's gauges cycle downward slightly. Only this time, when he pressed the test switch, the engine needles dropped precipitously. The turbine temp  dropped off as the engine coasted down with the fire out. Then, since the engine throttle was still advanced, and fuel was still going into a hot engine case, fuel reignited with little airflow and the temp needle shot upward.

He wasn't expecting that. (Either was I when the exact same thing happened to me in a Bell 230 years prior.) Before he could react and shut the fuel off and motor air through the engine, it exceeded the transient limit.

Time for a new motor and some soul-searching...

In another instance, a crew was flying across a dark swamp in the middle of the night when the fuel level on one of the two supply tanks dropped toward empty. They checked the emergency procedure and all the switches, and down it went. The pilot said, "get ready for an engine failure." They had no way of knowing that a plastic Ziploc parts bag had been dropped into the fuel cell months before during overhaul, and had picked that night to float across the pump's fuel inlet.

You can't think of everything - so you have to expect anything...

What makes things really tough is that we try to apply what we know to an unknown situation and sometimes we are way off base. I was accepting an aircraft out of maintenance once (perhaps the most risky thing an EMS pilot does - but something we do regularly with little fore-thought or caution). Instead of taking charge and briefing the assembled personage on how things were going to go, I passively let them tell me what was going to happen. I didn't think to brief abort-criteria, or where people would be and when and why, or exactly what faults we would tolerate as we attempted to see how bad the ship was. So there were heads stuck into an open engine cowling as I made my third attempt to start the left motor. The right one was running, but the rotor needle on the triple tach was dead as a stump. Because the rotor needle was dead, I assumed that the left engine's tach needle (N2) rising above the right engine was a problem with the gauge. I didn't expect a failure of the sprag clutch. When it caught with a BANG and a jerk, and tore the drive shaft in two, it's only luck that someone wasn't killed.

Time for a new motor/transmission/driveshaft and some soul-searching..

I had a ride-along go squirrelly on me once, at an accident scene. He got excited and was running to and fro, and toward my tail rotor out of sight. So I shut the engines down and thought about how to stop that from happening again.

I came upon a simple elegant solution. I would tell a ride-along, "wherever the flight nurse is, you are! I will never have to wonder about where you are because you will be at the flight nurse's side, got it? I would wait for the nod...

So I was surprised one night at the  Hilton Head Airport, when, with head down in a running BK filling out my manifest, I caught movement in my peripheral vision. I jerked my head up in time to see my ride-along run across the nose of my BK and head for the tail.


I snatched the throttles off and applied the rotor brake.

What had happened was... The flight nurse in the back of the ambulance realized she needed something stat. She bolted out the back of the bus and headed for the aircraft. The ride-along watched her bolt and realized he was supposed to be "right next to her" so he gave chase.

You can't think of everything so you have to expect anything.

Safe flights....

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

National EMS Pilot's Association Appoints New President...

The US National EMS Pilots Association (NEMSPA) announced in July that it has appointed a new acting president, Kurt Williams. A former military aviator with almost three decades’ experience in the aviation industry, Williams is a lead pilot and air medical resource management instructor with PHI Air Medical Group, and formerly served on NEMSPA’s board of directors for two years.

Click here for full story....

Med-Trans and Martin County Florida Unable to Find Suitable Working Relationship...

Martin County firefighters thought their fight for a medical helicopter was over. Instead, the county received surprising news...

Click here for full story...

Editor's Note: I have worked with these Martin County firefighter/paramedics and loved it. I filled in during the draw-down of the last arrangement, and the aircraft pictured is now flying sick people in Winona MS. While their operating model in that region is different from convention (two medics  on board vice a nurse and medic) it works well for them. Here's hoping something can be worked out....

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Improved Training for Helicopter Pilots Takes Off..

Unlike airline pilots who have long relied on sophisticated ground-based technology to practice their flying and decision-making, helicopter aviators traditionally have done much of their training in the air—limiting chances to test their skills in the most dangerous situations. Now, full-motion simulators with...
Obtained from Google Images...

For full story click here...

Danger Ahead..."Amazon Asks FAA for Permission to Test Drones"

Drones will not "see and avoid," so it will be up to us. As if birds weren't bad enough...

Photo obtained from Google images...
Click here for full story from the Wall Street Journal...

Monday, July 14, 2014

Chopper Crash Test a Smash Hit ...

Click here for full story...

Metro Aviation Delivers EC145 to Boston MedFlight

“We are excited to receive our second Airbus EC145 after its completion from Metro Aviation. This gives us the youngest operating fleet in our region, which provides us with access to the latest and greatest in technology, airframe, and safety enhancements available in the industry,” said Charles Blathras, Chief Operations Manager for Boston MedFlight.
(editor's note: I recently had the pleasure of visiting Boston Medflight. It is a wonderful operation...)

Flight Nurse Tells The Real Story...

Click here to order from Amazon...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Man threatens medical helicopter in Green Township...

Leonard Pflanz, Photo provided by Green Township Police
A Green Township man was arrested today after he threatened the crew of a UC Health Air Care helicopter at Mercy West hospital...

Click here for full story...

Saturday, July 12, 2014

John Davidson: Local LifeStar needed now, and especially if All Aboard Florida comes to town (Editorial from the TCPalm)

Martin County citizens should be concerned about how delays from All Aboard Florida could obstruct emergency response times. Already subjected to over 100 train delays a year during emergency calls, we share public fears over how 32 passenger trains and increased freight could compound this problem.

Click here for full story...

Friday, July 11, 2014

Hallsville native, Army vet heads life-saving air ambulance program for East Texas...

When a medical transport helicopter takes off from East Texas Regional Airport, it’s likely a Hallsville native and U.S. Army veteran will be behind the controls.

Courtesy News-Journal.com Longview, Texas

Click here for the full story...

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Why Air Methods Could Keep Soaring

The impact of Affordable Care Act, also often referred to as Obamacare, remains unknown. But the company believes it should be an overall positive benefit once it is implemented in the coming years, as more customers will be insured -- thereby hopefully improving collection rates (which are by far the highest with private insurance, according to the firm).

Click here for full story...


I walked into an interesting conversation this morning, concerning an event that occurred at the base I am covering. As the discussion drifted to the pilot involved, mention was made of his habit of making his approaches - in so many words - too darn slowly.

As in painfully slow, maddeningly slow, dangerously slow, for-freaking-ever slow. This generated a discussion of what the pilot in question is doing and why he is doing it.

The company I work for has adopted a rule that pilots on approach to land in  a helicopter at any place other than a clear runway at an airport must not exceed a 200 foot-per-minute rate-of-descent during the last 300 feet of altitude. So, if you do the math, you can see that it should take 90 seconds to drop through the last three hundred feet.

That's a long time...

There are a several factors in this decision, and they are worth understanding. They include vortex-ring-state (of the main rotor system) also referred to as settling-with-power or power-settling; wire-strikes - our ability to see wires and avoid hitting them, or stop the aircraft when a strike is imminent; and being able to safely terminate the approach in a heavily loaded aircraft with marginal power reserves. 

A helicopters rotor system operates in one of four modes, the normal thrusting state, when the engine(s) are driving the rotor and air is forced down through the rotor system, the autorotational state when air passes up through the rotor system and drives the rotor (as would happen after loss of power and rapid descent), the rotor-brake state which occurs in a tight turn or in a helicopter with an out of rig rotor system (rotor overspeeding), and finally the vortex-ring state or VRS.

In VRS, the rotor system is enveloped (from outside the disk around it's circumference and from the center) in swirls of air that destroy lift capability and result in a rapid sink rate. The houses get big fast. A pilot's normal instinct when entering into VRS is to pull more power to arrest the descent, but this aggravates the situation and makes the aircraft depart controlled flight, do crazy stuff, and fall faster. RW Prouty can give a more disciplined explanation of this of course, but hopefully you get the idea. I can explain this to most crewmembers by relating to the prop on a boat that is ventilating and loses all thrust. You have to slow down or stop and let water get back around the prop, and more power makes it worse.

Image courtesy helidreams.com

VRS is bad. The conditions that lead to VRS are a zero or near-zero speed through the air (not important how fast you are moving across the ground), some power applied (to get the vortex rings or "swirls" going - normally 20 to 100%) and a rate of descent 300 feet per minute or greater.

The end result of Vortex Ring State...

Now for the first 2.5 decades of my flying career, we made our approaches at the apparent rate of closure of a brisk-walk (using peripheral vision), and we would normally be around 45 knots airspeed descending at about 500 feet per minute when at 300 feet above the ground, gradually reducing speed and sink rate until touchdown. If you have been a crewmember for awhile, this is what you are used to. The brisk-walk rate-of-closure is still mentioned in the FAA's book on helicopters.

Generally, as long as one is not landing downwind, and has airspeed across the rotor system, VRS isn't a problem. The problem is that sometimes it's hard to tell where the wind is from, like at night on a middle-of-nowhere landing zone. Landing downwind puts the rotor system at zero airspeed before zero ground speed while still at altitude and permits the suction of air above the rotor system and the creation of the aforementioned vortex rings. But if we are descending at 200 feet per minute landing downwind doesn't matter so much.

That's one reason for the rule.

Then there is the fact that the slower you descend the more time you have to see a wire and avoid it. Pilots landing at scenes will instinctively land very slowly at night, and be looking for wires. During the day we can become complacent or distracted and not see a wire in our path until the last second.

 If we see it.

By descending so slowly we afford ourselves the opportunity to STOP STOP STOP - and this has happened with a wire underneath the rotor disk in front of the windshield.

Finally, when we are heavy and the air is hot, our machines have little power reserve beyond what  is required to fly. If we come in fast, there may not be sufficient power to arrest our descent and we can smack the ground. (Been there done that in a Chinook...) By approaching at 200 feet per minute we reduce the amount of extra power that will be required to terminate at a hover.

Now, sometimes the slow descent  feels right (at night, dark scene, under goggles - or at max gross weight on a hot day - or in gusty winds), and then other times it feels unnecessary. And crews get impatient.

When we are nearly hovering at altitude, as is happening in a 200 fpm approach, we are inside the "dead man's curve" or avoid-area of the height velocity chart in the operator's manual. If the motor quits at that point, we are going to damage the aircraft and perhaps injure ourselves. There has been consideration of this risk, and it has been balanced against the other risks just mentioned, and flying in the avoid zone has been determined to be the lesser risk. They sign the front of the check.

The company has elected to make the slow approach the standard,in all cases except when landing at an airport, perhaps for positive habit transfer. I had a check airman have me demonstrate that I could do it recently, with the clock ticking off 90 seconds, and then he told me, "okay, the VSI (vertical speed indicator - indicates sink rate) on this ship is a little off so you can make your approaches just a bit faster."  And so I did. Most of us know when to slow things down, but not everyone - so the rule is there for all of us...

Photo courtesy Gibson and Barnes click here to visit...

Safe Flights...

Air-evac service transported patient despite her protests...

After Call 12 for Action contacted PHI last week, company officials called Karr and informed her they had dismissed the $32,700 bill. She said officials told her she qualified for a bill reduction under a company program that helps low-income individuals...Click here for the full report...

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Geese caused fatal USAF helicopter crash in Cley, report says

Investigators found "clear" evidence "bird strikes" caused a helicopter crash which killed four people.

Click here for full story...

(The duty pilot at my base struck a bird last night over the water. It made a big boom and got his attention. He had taxi, landing, and search lights on - which goes against my theory that lights on helps prevent strikes at night)

National EMS Memorial Service Keynote Address...

EMS providers turn people’s fear into hope and alter the outcomes of the worst days of their lives. When your loved one arrived on scene, nothing was more urgent for the patient or their family than to converse with them. And that desire transcended all other priorities in their lives at that moment.

"So for the families sitting here today, please know that we recognize how painful it must be for you to endure another memorial service. And for that we not only recognize the honorees for their sacrifice, but we also recognize you for your courage and strength of heart.
Your own selflessness was tested time and again in the wee hours of the night, over the holidays, on weekends, during rewarmed dinners and sitting alone at children’s events. You, too, were subject to the ne...eds of the community, and we appreciate your commitment."
excerpt from Scott Craven's, keynote address at the National EMS Memorial Service.

Read the entire address by clicking here...

Rules to Blog By...

  • Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.
  • Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief.
  • Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance.
  • Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone's privacy.
  • Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
  • Be cautious about identifying ... victims ....
  • Be judicious about naming .....
  • Balance a (persons) rights with the public's right to be informed.

  • Courtesy Wikipedia with minor editing for context.

    A quote from Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes...

     "The so-called opportunities I faced," he once said, "would have meant giving up my individual voice for that of a money-grubbing corporation. It would have meant my purpose in writing was to sell things, not say things."

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

    EagleMed Air Medical Transport Selects Metro Aviation for Helicopter Flight Sim Training...

    EagleMed LLC critical care air medical transport company has selected Metro Aviation as its preferred provider of helicopter simulator training for its pilots. EagleMed will conduct this important training at Metro Aviation’s Helicopter Flight Training Center in Shreveport, La., utilizing a Eurocopter AS350 Level 7 Flight Training Device....

    Click here for full story...

    Martin County Florida firefighters say crashes on Tuesday show the need for its own medical helicopter....

    Firefighters in Martin County (FL) are once again sounding the alarm on their need for a trauma helicopter.

    Click here for news report....

    Courtesy WPTV

    Tour Astar Engine Failure...

    NTSB Identification: WPR14LA251
    Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
    Accident occurred Tuesday, June 17, 2014 in Wailuku, HI
    Aircraft: AIRBUS AS 350 BA FX1, registration: N6094H
    Injuries: 6 Uninjured.
    This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

    On June 17, 2014, about 1330 Hawaii standard time, an Airbus AS 350 BA helicopter, N6094H, sustained substantial damage during a hard landing following an off-airport auto rotation. The helicopter was registered to and being operated by Sunshine Helicopters Inc., Puunene, Hawaii, as a visual flight rules (VFR) scenic tour flight under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 135. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed; the pilot and the five passengers were not injured. The flight departed Kalului Airport (PHOG), Kalului, Hawaii, about 1300, and company flight following procedures were in effect.

    During a telephone conversation with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC) on June 26, a representative for Sunshine Helicopters said the pilot reported that he was 10 minutes out on his third flight of the day, when during cruise flight the main rotor speed (RPM) started to decrease and the low rotor warning alarm sounded. He lowered the collective pitch control to increase rotor RPM, but the helicopter started to descend. He raised the collective pitch control and the main rotor RPM started to decrease again; he entered an autorotation, and landed the helicopter.

    The helicopter landed hard in tall grass, structurally damaging the fuselage and tailboom.

    After recovery, the helicopter's engine was removed, and has been shipped to the engine manufacturer's facility for further examination under the supervision of the NTSB.
    (Note: Complete power failure, all six aboard uninjured. Well Done Friend...)

    Thursday, July 3, 2014

    Another Wonderful Flight-Team Member Taking Off... So long Vicki! It was Great Working With You...

    Vicki Fenters, Former Flight Nurse and Future Nurse Practitioner...
    For those who know me, know that change is very difficult for me. It is so hard to believe that I am only 2 semesters away from finishing NP school! Yay!!!! I knew the time would come that I would leave my job as a flight nurse when I decided to start NP school. I had hoped to continue flying until I graduated, however, the clinical and class time conflicts with my 24 hour shifts so unfortunat...ely, I had to resign my position at LifeNet.

    Over the nearly 6 years I have worked at LifeNet, I have made many new friends who have become more like family than some of my blood relatives. This was not an easy decision mostly for this reason.

    I wanted to be a flight nurse since I was 5 years old when my life and the lives of my immediate family were impacted by a flight crew in 1980. I went in to this job wanting to be the best flight nurse possible and to make a difference in as many lives as God planned for me. I pray I was successful in meeting and exceeding these goals. I have completed 585 patient flights thus far, obtained my paramedic certification, CFRN and was 2011 SC Emergency Nurse of the Year. Not to mention, I even had the opportunity to be a defender of tomorrow. HaHa. (A little inside joke to my LifeNet peeps!!) I think I am ok with hanging my "wings" up with these stats. Thank you Jason Bober for being an awesome base manager!!

    I am excited, however, to transition back to the ED and am looking forward to working with some great ER nurses at Parkridge. Thank you Angela Bruccoli for this opportunity!!

    Here Come the Drones...

    (7/11/14) Drone Spotted Near Savannah GA Airport...Click here for story...

    Two Drones in Near Miss With Police Helicopter Over George Washington Bridge

    If you fly a "manned" aircraft, this video will give you pause... Click here.

    This "pilot" is putting people at risk... Click here.

    Here is yet another. This fellow must not know that there are aircraft flying through clouds...

    To some, a drone isn't skeet - but they will still shoot at it... click here for story.

    Of course, there are some professional operators, like FireFighter/Medic/Entrepeneur Keith Colodny...

    Click for link to a story about pending regulations...