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COVER STORY

Chasing The Golden Hour

Air Evac Lifeteam Makes Big Strides In Weather Safety

There are two main threats to EMS helicopter pilots – weather and darkness,

but this really shouldn’t come as a surprise. In 1988, the National Transportation Safety Board investigated 59 helicopter emergency medical services accidents and concluded that low visibility, often caused by poor weather conditions account- ed for 61% of all crashes. Since then, little has changed.

BY JENNA SHEPARD

Although the commercial aviation

industry requires that an aircraft be out- fitted with everything from weather tracking technologies like onboard radar and GPS to collision avoidance tools, these same requirements are not made of the medical helicopter industry. Furthermore, at a time when air medical companies are being scrutinized due to the sheer number of EMS helicopter crashes and a lack of critical onboard technologies not yet mandated by the FAA, one company is making big strides in the right direction by focusing on weather safety.

Air Evac Lifeteam has had onboard weather since 2007. The company,

PHOTO: AIREVAC/MARK MENNIE

which is the largest independently owned and operated air medical service provider in the United States, operates the world’s largest fleet of over 100 Bell 206 Long Ranger helicopters – all equipped with XM WX Satellite Weather, a data sub- scription service that delivers near real- time weather information to the cockpit. Mounted in the pilot’s line of sight,

Garmin’s GPSMAP 396 displays XM Weather’s near real-time data like NEXRAD radar, winds aloft and METARs. “Having XM Weather onboard plays a big part in my decision making,” says Ron Whitney, Base Pilot Supervisor for Air Evac Lifeteam’s Shoals based air- craft. “It does me no good to get en route

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