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Aviation Accident Report, Loss of Engine Power Eurocopter AS350, Mosby, MO – August 26, 2011 - Chairman's Closing Remarks
Deborah A. P. Hersman
Aviation Accident Report, Loss of Engine Power Eurocopter AS350, Mosby, MO – August 26, 2011 - Chairman's Closing Remarks

In closing, I want to recognize the NTSB staff for their excellent and thorough work bringing this report to the Board, in particular, the staff from the Office of Aviation Safety and from the Office of Research and Engineering. Jim Silliman, Investigator-in-Charge, and his team did an outstanding job.

The nation's helicopter emergency medical services perform important work transporting hundreds of patients and organs every day. We all share the same goal: to ensure that lives are saved -- not lost -- in these vital lifesaving operations.

This is why we have issued so many recommendations over the years addressing HEMS training, risk assessment, weather evaluation, safety equipment and more.

It's why we reiterate certain recommendations today - as you just heard, for formalized dispatch and flight-following procedures and for new criteria for scenario-based HEMS pilot training. And, it's why we return to our recommendation for using simulators for crucial scenario-based training.

But, this investigation highlighted what is a growing concern across transportation - distraction and the myth of multi-tasking. When you are operating heavy machinery, whether it's a personal vehicle or an EMS helicopter, you need to be focused on the task at hand: transportation, safe transportation.

We've long known about the need for pilots to focus on flying-related tasks; decades ago sterile cockpits were introduced. In this investigation we saw the fatal consequences of distraction during preflight inspection and flight planning and decision making.

This is why we recommend that the FAA prohibit HEMS flight crewmembers and others from using portable electronic devices for non-operational uses during flight and ground operations and why we are calling for operators to support this in their manuals and training.

It's time to expand the safety zone to encompass all safety critical phases of flight - on the ground and in the air.

Air Methods understands this and I commend its work to improve its policies, procedures and training as well as its efforts to equip new helicopters with recording devices.

As the nation's largest provider of air transport medical services, Air Methods expectations for professionalism from all of its personnel should be high. For every pilot and operator out there - that's a clear lesson to be drawn from this tragedy.

Professionalism and prudent decision making are crucial as we saw so dramatically in this investigation, especially when operating under pressure, whether self-induced or due to ineffective planning.

If only this pilot on this flight had followed another piece of wisdom from Wilbur Wright: "Do not let yourself be forced into doing anything before you are ready."

This meeting stands adjourned. We will reconvene at 1:30 p.m. to consider the second item on our agenda.