The pilot departed on a flight without a thorough pre-flight weather evaluation, the NTSB announced in a public meeting. The Bell 407 helicopter air ambulance, operated by Survival Flight, crashed in Zaleski, Ohio on 29 January 2019, in deteriorating weather. All three occupants – the pilot, flight nurse and flight paramedic – were killed in the accident.
In post-accident interviews, current and former Survival Flight employees said there was pressure from management to operate flights in challenging conditions and to take flights that other helicopter air ambulance services turned down due to inclement weather.
The Association of Air Medical Services (AAMS), has responded to the announcement by saying it supports standards of performance reflecting safe operations.
Cameron Curtis, AAMS President and CEO, said: “AAMS has consistently supported a multitude of regulations to enhance safe operations in the HAA community. We’ve also worked tirelessly as an industry to raise safety standards and share best practices.
“While our organization does not comment on individual air medical transport accidents, AAMS views any disregard of these efforts – especially those that exist to preserve the safety of air medical patients and crews – as a serious matter. Our organization advocates for the highest operational standards for the safety of our critical care transport providers as well as the patients.”
Robert Sumwalt, NTSB Chairman, commented: “This accident was all but invited by the actions and culture of Survival Flight. Unfortunately, we have seen yet another case of how a poor safety culture can lead to tragedy.”