The National Transportation Safety Board approved recommendations for better training and sophisticated safety equipment for emergency helicopter operators, and wants to limit Medicare payments for medical flights to operators who meet new safety standards.
NTSB urges new rules for medical helicopters
The NTSB recommendations urge the Federal Aviation Administration to, among other things, require medical helicopter operators to install autopilot systems that can help solo pilots, terrain awareness monitoring to help pilots navigate in bad conditions, night-vision systems that help navigate in the dark and flight data recorders. The safety board, which cannot require such rules, also wants the FAA to require medical helicopter pilots to receive safety training and to report flight activity at least annually.
The board also agreed to ask HHS to create safety audits for emergency helicopter operators and to require the operators to pass the new safety standards to receive Medicare payments for medical flights. Board members approved the concept at their meeting and asked NTSB staff to craft recommendations to send to HHS, which would have to adopt the changes in reimbursements.
The board's action comes after last year's record number of fatalities involving emergency medical helicopters.
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