Metro Aviation has implemented new technology in its Operational Control Center (OCC) using a web-based interface to comply with the new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) helicopter air ambulance rule regarding OCC changes.
Metro Aviation operates more than 120 air medical aircraft across the US, with an average of 230 flight requests each day.
The air medical operator originally contracted with Complete Flight in 2015 to transition into digital record keeping using the Complete Flight IOS App for iPads, and recently expanded its capabilities with the company’s web-based interface.
The FAA rule, which went into effect on 22 April, requires certificate holders with 10 or more helicopter air ambulances to have an OCC, Metro Aviation explained. Furthermore, an OCC must provide two-way communication with pilots and participate in the preflight risk analysis, ensuring pilots have not only completed all requirements on the preflight risk analysis worksheet, but also confirmed and verified those entries, assisting the pilot in mitigating risks prior to take-off and providing written acknowledgement that the worksheet was completed and the flight can be conducted safely.
“Air medical operations are time sensitive and we need flights to get off the ground as soon as possible, but also as safely as possible,” said Metro director of operations Jim Arthur. “The new rule places a lot of responsibility on the OCC and demands a significant amount of work to be completed in a short space of time. With an organised dashboard providing a more accurate monitoring of pending flight requests, active flights, and visibility to pilot currency and aircraft status, we are able to conduct a safer operation and meet the FAA requirements without any significant change in launch times.”
“It was important to Metro that we didn’t design a system that only focused on the pilot’s risk analysis worksheet,” Arthur continued. “The Complete Flight OCC module allows us to export the requested route of flight to weather analysis software, ensuring the flight can be conducted as safely as possible.”
Metro Aviation said it partnered with Complete Flight to build and customise an OCC module that would fit the needs of an active OCC and surpass existing requirements. “We had a real advantage working with Metro to design our new OCC functionality,” said Complete Flight president Bernie Berg. “We were able to work with them in designing a system that met the needs of a large fleet, while getting real-time feedback from an incredibly busy OCC.”
The Complete Flight module allows the OCC to quickly and easily countersign risk forms, as well as retrieve weather information, publish routes to a third party, monitor pilot currency and aircraft maintenance status, monitor open flights, enter and log routes and utilise enhanced communications between the communications centre, OCC and pilot.
“We designed the new OCC module with functionality that goes beyond the FAA requirements. We saw an opportunity to develop a robust dashboard that helps operators monitor and organise their OCCs,” said Berg.
Believing a system is only as good as those using it, Metro deployed trainers to its 34 operations customers around the country to train communication specialists on the new module and have all programmes up and running in advance of the FAA effective date. “Without a doubt, we are a safer operation because of the workflow and module we developed in partnership with Complete Flight,” said Arthur. The Complete Flight OCC Module is not proprietary and is available to all operators.
“Our mission is to help simplify Part 135 management, and that includes creating new functionality to meet new and evolving FAA requirements,” said Berg.