The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed a $428,000 civil penalty against Air Methods Corp. for allegedly operating two helicopters when they were not in compliance with Federal Aviation Regulations. In a statement released on 31 July, the FAA alleged: “[Air Methods] violated its operations specifications by flying the helicopters despite failing to perform required inspections of their night vision imaging system compatible lighting filtration (NVIS) installations.” The FAA also alleged that the failure to perform the required inspections rendered the helicopters unairworthy.
The administration asserted that between 8 June and 7 September 2011, Air Methods allegedly operated one of the helicopters on 489 flights totalling 144 hours when the NVIS inspections were overdue. During the same period, it allegedly operated the other helicopter on 431 flights over a total of 139 hours when the inspections were overdue.
“Operators must be vigilant when maintaining aircraft, especially companies that have people in their care,” said FAA administrator Michael Huerta. “It’s critical that operators perform required inspections of their safety systems to ensure they’re working as intended.”
Air Methods was given 30 days to respond to the agency.
Mike Allen, president of domestic air medical services for Air Methods, commented: “The FAA has our full co-operation to address their allegations, and to raise the bar to ensure the safety of those who fly with us. The two helicopters mentioned in the 2011 allegations are in compliance and have been for some time now. In 2013, Air Methods became the first air medical provider and helicopter operator to achieve the highest level (IV) within the FAA’s voluntary Safety Management System (SMS) programme. Safety is and always will be our highest priority at Air Methods.”
Meanwhile, the FAA has proposed a civil penalty of $110,000 against Air Evac EMS Inc. for operating a Bell 206 helicopter that ‘was not in compliance with Federal Aviation Regulations’. The FAA has alleged that a company mechanic installed a chin bubble window on the aircraft without following the manufacturer’s instructions, and then failed to document the installation in the aircraft’s maintenance logbook. As a result of the improper installation, said the FAA, the aircraft was not in compliance with Federal Aviation Regulations.
Air Evac EMS returned the aircraft to service and flew it on eight passenger-carrying flights. On 4 September 2012, after 7.3 flight hours, the chin window fell off during cruise flight, resulting in a precautionary landing. The FAA alleges that Air Evac operated the aircraft ‘in a careless manner that endangered the lives of people on the aircraft and on the ground’.
A representative of Air Evac EMS said that the organisation has been in communication with the FAA and will continue to work with the agency on this matter.