About 10 years ago, the Federal Aviation Administration began ramping up efforts to improve helicopter safety -- in particular for air ambulances. The ensuing four years saw a decline in helicopter crashes, but in 2008 the FAA reported a record number of helicopter fatalities.
In light of the 2008 accidents and other data collected over the course of 20 years, the FAA recently issued further safety regulations for all helicopter pilots in the United States. Under this "final rule," the agency's equivalent of Congress passing a law, helicopter operators were given 60 days to implement new safety procedures. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx described the requirements as "a landmark rule for helicopter safety."
In particular, helicopter pilots will have to adhere to stricter flying requirements at night and during inclement weather, which reduces the likelihood of a crash. New requirements were also issued with regard to landing helicopters in remote areas with potentially rough terrain that is difficult to safely touch down upon.
Air ambulances were given a three-year deadline for the installation of up-to-date navigation equipment, and the FAA issued a four-year deadline for the installation of systems used to monitor flight data. The technology improves helicopter pilots' decision making.
Many people assume that helicopter pilots are always properly trained and equipped to handle unexpected situations in the air and on the ground. Unfortunately, that isn't always the case. The FAA's new regulations are aimed at reducing the risk of injury in a sky that is increasingly occupied by air ambulances and other helicopters.
In addition to pilot errors, issues such as poor helicopter maintenance, manufacturing defects and pad operator errors can lead to serious injuries. These matters are often points of contention in lawsuits related to helicopter accidents. In pursuing the best possible outcome in these cases, those affected by a helicopter disaster would be wise to seek strong legal representation.
Source: Federal Aviation Administration, "Press Release - FAA Issues Final Rule to Improve Helicopter Safety," Feb. 20, 2014