HEMS pilot safety is a topic at EASA
When I think of helicopter safety, the first thing I usually think of is helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) operations. Yes, there are many more uses for rotorcraft. Of course, every life is essential, but what tugs at the heartstrings more than an accident with medical personnel and a critically ill or injured patient onboard? The EASA seems to agree because they recently issued a regulatory opinion to boost HEMS safety, and pilot training plays a significant part in their plan.
The EASA opinion is directed toward the HEMS community, but good safety procedures should work for every helicopter operation. Search and Rescue, police work, executive transport, offshore operations, etc. Safe is safe, right? Let’s increase safety, improve efficiency, and keep costs down for all operators.
EASA is concerned with EMS safety procedures, so their notices of proposed amendments (NPA) focus on this area. The comments from these NPAs form the basis of their proposed revisions, with the objective being to modernize their regulatory framework regarding HEMS operations.
Two NPAs are being discussed right now. One addresses changes in the rules regarding operations at high altitudes, flights to and from public interest sites, such as hospital landing pads in congested areas, night operations, and mountain area rescues. It also revises rules for additional pilot training, equipment, and maintenance regulations.
The other NPA aims to increase safety during VFR flights in marginal weather conditions, which would go a long way toward reducing accidents. It also intends to remove the regulatory obstacles inhibiting helicopter flights under IFR. This one has better pilot training written all over it.
The new rules also affect autopilot usage, requiring HEMS single pilot operators to have an autopilot while flying at night. These changes will undoubtedly positively affect helicopter safety as we all take note of what is working and what is not. Increasing pilot training always benefits the helicopter community, especially HEMS operators.