How Safe Is an Air Ambulance?
Every so often a patient or patient’s family member will ask MedFlight911 Air Ambulance “How safe is an air ambulance?” The answer is that all air ambulance operators are required to abide by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety regulations.
Now, I always tell patients to be aware that not all medical flight providers are truly air ambulances. Some are what we call “angel flights” or “care flights” where an airplane owner volunteers his aircraft and a pilot volunteers her time to transport the patient. Because those flights are not paid, operators are not required to abide by the same FAA regulations.
The FAA regulations that MedFlight911 Air Ambulance is required to abide by are known as Part 135. They require adherence to regular maintenance and safety checks as well as pilot training time requirements.
I’ve written before about the difference between rotor-wing air ambulances and fixed-wing air ambulances. Essentially, rotor-wing refers to helicopters and fixed-wing to airplanes. Both are categorized as air ambulances by the FAA and governed by the same regulations.
After a number of rotor-wing air ambulance crashes last year, the FAA made regulations stricter for all air ambulances, including fixed-wing air ambulances (the only kind MedFlight911 Air Ambulance flies), which have always had a much better safety record than helicopter ambulances.
100% air ambulance safety record
So my basic answer to the “How safe is an air ambulance?” question is that operating an air ambulance requires us to meet the strictest FAA Part 135 standards. Every operator must abide by them to maintain their FAA license. But I also note that MedFlight911 Air Ambulance has a 100% safety record – no crashes, ever. And, as they say, the proof is in the pudding.
Sometimes I also mention the certifications that all of the MedFlight911 Air Ambulance vendors maintain, including CAMTS, WYVERN, ARGUS, and EURAMI Platinum ratings as well. Many of these certifications require more extensive pilot training than the FAA does. And that’s important because how well the pilot knows the particular plane he or she is flying is important.
The age and maintenance record of the air ambulance matter too. Is it a 1990 or 2000 Lear 35 or a 1960 model plane that has been stripped and rebuilt four times? The newer a plane is, all else equal, the safer it is.
While no air ambulance service provider can give an absolute guarantee that no problems will ever arise, the result of the requirements that MedFlight911 Air Ambulance operators abide by is clear: a perfect safety record.