NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) – Federal authorities are making sure medical helicopters are as safe as they can be. New regulations include stricter flight rules and requirements for more safety equipment in air ambulances.
“You can’t put a price on safety,” said Orlen Sealand, with Vanderbilt Life Flight.
Between 6,000 and 8,000 helicopter flights take off and land at the helipad outside Vanderbilt University Medical Center each year. Vandy has five helicopters in its Life Flight fleet, and officials say each is already in compliance with the new FAA requirements.
Life Flight crews say visibility and varying elevations have been the biggest problems in the past for medical helicopters, so part of the new requirements include terrain awareness and warning systems.
“It will take tens of thousands of dollars per aircraft,” Sealand said.
But it all has to be done by April 2015 to keep Life Flight airborne.
“Anything that enhances the pilots’ awareness, anything that improves the margin of safety, anything that reduces or mitigates risks we’re wholly in support of,” Sealand said.
Other than the equipment upgrades, Life Flight crews are trained twice a year. Air Methods, the company that runs the Vanderbilt air ambulance flights says it doesn’t plan to pass along these extra costs for the new safety requirements.
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