Understanding Air Ambulance Duty Time
Most people understand that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has rules regarding the how long a pilot is allowed to be on duty before he or she has to take a rest period. What people may not know is that pilot duty time rules also apply to advanced air ambulance pilots as well.
Essentially, a pilot is only permitted to be on duty for a certain number of hours and must have a lengthy rest break prior to beginning another flight. In recent years, the FAA has been fine-tuning the rules about flight duty time, since a 2009 crash of a commercial flight was linked to pilot fatigue. The new rules (which were issued last year), however, don't apply to most charter flights, including air ambulance flights like ours, which are subject to slightly different regulations.
Nonetheless, we at MedFlight911 take the need for pilot and crew rest seriously, and we make it a point to always follow the rules that apply to us to the letter. The safety of our patients, passengers, and crew is of utmost importance, and we just don't think it's smart to take chances by having a pilot who may be too tired to fly. To avoid that problem, when we schedule flights we're careful to build in adequate rest time.
For short air ambulance flights, it's relatively easy to make sure that pilots get adequate rest and aren't overly fatigued. But things can get complicated when we're coordinating an international air ambulance flight. I've shared a few of these stories in the past, including trips to the Ukraine and Lebanon. In those cases, we have to plan carefully to make sure that our pilots get the rest they need to be able to fly safely, while also making sure that we're able to get to patients in need as quickly as possible. It can be a tricky balancing act, but we've always managed to pull it off.
Flight duty time is a big issue in the aviation industry in general, and the air medical transport field in particular. I'm looking forward to the 2012 Air Medical Transport Conference in Seattle next month, where one of the education sessions will focus on the issue of pilot duty time, including the logic behind the existing rules and changes that may be coming in the future. Another session will focus on managing and reducing the risks of fatigue among air ambulance crew members. I'm sure both will be fascinating discussions, and I hope to come away with some insights that we can incorporate into our business here at MedFlight911.
To find out more about MedFlight911's advanced air ambulance services give us a call at 888-359-1911 or get a no-obligation medflight air ambulance quote here.