The National Transportation Safety Board issued a report calling on the Federal Aviation Administration to adopt tougher regulations for air-ambulance flights. Among other recommendations, the NTSB said medical helicopters should install high-tech gear such as terrain-awareness warning systems; pilots should work no more than 14-hour duty days; and emergency medical service operators and pilots should improve how they evaluate flight risks before departure. The agency issued its report after investigating 55 air-ambulance accidents between January 2002 and January 2005. The accidents resulted in 54 deaths, an agency spokeswoman said, although 35 of the accidents occurred with no patients on board. So far this year, there have been nine air-ambulance accidents with eight fatalities, she said. In a news release, the NTSB warned that many EMS operators "lack a consistent, comprehensive flight-dispatch procedure to assist pilots in determining the safety of a mission." Read an NTSB synopsis of the report. -- by Michael Romano
NTSB urges news safety rules for medical helicopters
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