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!
Pilots: QUIT PUSHING BAD WEATHER AND DRIVING YOUR PERFECTLY OPERATIONAL AIRCRAFT INTO THE DAMNED GROUND!
Med Crews: QUIT SITTING ON YOUR ASZES AND ALLOWING YOUR PILOTS TO FLY YOU INTO THE GROUND! SPEAK THE HELL UP ALREADY!!
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!
WAKE THE HELL UP! PULL YOUR HEADS OUT! QUIT FLYING INTO THE GDMF GROUND ALREADY!