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flight beyond the 14 hour limit, the crew and oper- ator can infer a logical implementation of the lan- guage of 135.263(d), above, to include an allowance for a reasonable and necessary exceedance of the duty time limits in the same manner as for flight time limits (which they wouldn’t need, anyway). Option 2, and the only option possible under


the newly proposed interpretation of the rules, is that the pilot must depart without the patient, as in the scenarios above. The fact that we virtually never hear of patients being abandoned in such circumstances suggests that Option 2 is being exercised in these kinds of circumstances. Although it is not possible to know how this issue is being handled by air medical providers across the coun- try, many "off the record" inquiries that I have made with EMS pilots from a number of different loca- tions have suggested that Option 1 is the option of choice in those rare occasions where truly unan- ticipated delays have necessitated that


the pilot


exceed the duty period in order to complete the transport.


An additional hazard that is introduced when


a pilot feels pressure to complete a mission within the constraints of a duty period, and where there is no provision whatsoever for any extension, is that the pilot may rush the operation or otherwise cut


corners in order to complete the mission on time, which can result in unsafe or even tragic choices on the part of air crews. The greatest disaster in the history of commercial aviation resulted in 583 fatalities when the pilot of a KLM (Dutch Royal Airline) 747 rushed his takeoff from a fog-bound runway and collided with another 747 that had not yet cleared the runway after landing. In the official accident


report


KLM 4805 and Pan Am 1736, the investigators suggested that


have been influenced by a desire to leave as soon as possible in order to comply with KLM's duty- time regulations, and before the weather deteriorat- ed further. An impending duty period limit was also a


very likely influence in a fatal medical helicopter crash in California in December 2003. The NTSB accident investigation docket (LAX04FA076) pro- vides clear indications that the pilot would be feel- ing pressure to take the quickest course of action possible in order to complete the patient transport within the constraints of his duty period. The language of FAR 135.263(d) is borrowed


almost verbatim from FAR Part 121.471(g) which states that "A flight crewmember is not considered to


be scheduled for flight time in excess of flight time limitations if the flights to which he is assigned are scheduled and normally terminate within the limitations, but due to circumstances beyond the control of


following the collision between the Captain's fatal mistake might


the certificate holder


(such as adverse weather conditions), are not at the time of departure expected to reach their destination within the scheduled time." That language makes more sense in the con-


text of Part 121 operations where the crewmembers are actually assigned specific flights and scheduled for a specific number of flight hours for a duty period. The use of the phrase "flights to which he is assigned" in FAR 135.263(d) is a poor fit for Part 135 air ambulance operations since those flights are rarely scheduled at


all, but are conducted on-


demand. This is especially true for helicopter air medical transports where the flight team typically learns of a flight request only minutes before take- off. But, neither the language of 135.263(d) nor 121.471(g) really addresses the need for relief that is occasioned by delays caused by "circumstances beyond the control of the certificate holder...” The "circumstances" that are most often cited in discus- sions of these rules include late passengers, delays waiting for and loading cargo, or un-forecast adverse weather that might put a flight on hold


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