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Nearly all air-medical helicopters frequently

operate near the limits of their gross weight capa- bilities. In years past, the hardware we are consid- ering here was designed for larger fixed wing air- craft. The weight and bulk of such systems could compromise our ability to add a large patient to the flight manifest. The newest generation of these devices promises to be a much better fit for med- ical transport helicopters. In addition, most of the current devices were

designed for aircraft that flew higher and faster than is typical of medical helicopters. If those devices were used in medical helicopters as initially designed, they would produce a large number of false traffic or terrain alerts. Any system which provides frequent false alerts will soon be ignored or simply switched off by the operator. In order to be effective, the technology has been redesigned to accommodate flight profiles characteristic of HEMS operations.

IMPLICATIONS FOR TRAINING If new technology is not deployed properly, it

has the potential of causing the very accidents that it is intended to prevent. In the first months of flying with night vision goggles, the U.S. Army experienced a series of accidents, major and minor, that were the result of pilots not fully understanding the limitations, as well as the capabilities of the devices. The tech- nology under consideration for use in the air-medical transport industry will also carry the cost of thorough initial and recurrent training for all operators. There is no denying that this technology will

be an added cost and training burden upon oper- ators; but this burden should be viewed in its proper perspective. A backpack containing food, water, and first-aid supplies is certainly a burden to a hiker. But, no prudent back-packer would start up the trail without one. These considerations of organizational cul-

ture, training, individual psychology and technolo- gy are intended to serve as a general guide for self-examination and re-evaluation of how we train, how we manage and how we conduct our operations in order to accomplish our goals in the air-medical industry. abcd

William Winn served as a helicopter pilot and instructor pilot in the US Army for 27 years and began flying as a HEMS pilot when he retired from the Army in 1996. After a health problem forced him out of the cockpit in 2005, and with Bachelors and

Masters degrees in Education to draw on, he turned his efforts to the development of materials to teach HEMS safety. He is

currently the Safety Officer for Intermountain Life Flight in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is a member of the HEMS safety

improvement research group working under the direction of Dr. Ira Blumen of the University of Chicago Air medical Network. Bill also serves as the General Manager for the National EMS Pilots Association.

Re-printed from Rotor Magazine, Summer 2010 - Courtesy of Helicopter Association International 25

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