Category: SAFETY MATTERS: An Online Magazine

“Safety Matters” is an online magazine created and authored by both MedFlight and HealthNet Aeromedical Services.

A Lynyrd Skynyrd Case Study in Safety

by Amanda Ball, MedFlight Safety Officer


What can we learn from this rock band’s fatal plane crash?

While on their way to a show in 1977, the band’s chartered private plan ran out of fuel, and both engines failed… Causing a freefall from 4,500 ft cruising altitude.  Several on-board were killed on impact, including the band’s lead singer, shocking their friends, family, and fans… as well as the aviation industry.  What happened?  Why?  How?

The band’s management had advised that the plane they normally chartered was being replaced with a newer, more “trustworthy” aircraft after this concert.  But this concert was going to be a big one, and the pressure was on to be there.


“The flames shooting out of the engine 2 days earlier didn’t make me very confident.”
“We were afraid to get on the plane, but didn’t know any better.”
“Something’s not right.”
“Aerosmith previously used this plane, and the pilots had questioned its flight worthiness.”
“I didn’t see the pilots check it out before they climbed in.”
“Let’s go anyway, man.  We’ve got a gig to do.”


Inadequate fuel planning.
Aircraft was last checked 2 days prior to flight.
High, and unnoticed, fuel consumption by one of the engines during the flight.
Poor flight path planning prior to takeoff.
Continued flight with minimal fuel, overflying several airports with fuel resources.
Negligence or ignorance in regards to engine instruments.
Passengers entering and exiting cockpit.


“There were a lot of people on the plane that knew something was wrong, but we all kind of followed each other, and that’s where we made our mistake.”


There have been many speculations on what led to this incident… Pressure on the pilots to get the band to their destination, a rowdy culture that quite possibly caused distraction in the cockpit, lack of accountability in maintaining the plane’s airworthiness, and more.


Discuss with your transport team:  Do you see similarities to the pressures and challenges in our industry?  What factors may have played into this incident?  What measures does your organization have in place to enhance safe operations, reduce distraction, maintain vehicle quality and remove customer and financial pressure when reviewing transport requests?



ECHO Safety Team

By Jeff White, M.S., MTSP-C, FP-C.  Director of Safety, HealthNet Aeromedical Services

Every Coast Helicopter Operations (ECHO) has evolved into a driving force for our industry.  The organization was created by flight crews as an opportunity to collaborate on safety, training, and come together to share ideas to become better clinicians and patient care providers.  ECHO encompasses all public safety aviation, which includes law enforcement, search and rescue, and military members and provides free to low-cost education, high quality training programs, crew member and program support, and networking opportunities to public safety aviation members around the world.

As an added service for the industry, ECHO has developed a safety team to travel the country to assist agencies with an unbiased mindset to build internal safety management systems, complete safety and crew resource management training for agencies, etc.

Driven by CAMTS and the FAA, companies are now required to have their own safety programs that integrate into their operator’s safety program. This will create a more controllable safety program for a company’s specific area and hazards encountered.

This team will continue to grow and drive safety bringing it to the forefront of the industry and is another service for the aeromedical industry provided by the aeromedical industry.

The ECHO Safety Team is comprised of members from across

the country and includes:

Veronica Marzonie, Team Director: RN, LifeFlight of Maine

Ron Folse: Pilot, Orange County Florida Sheriff’s Office

Rachel Tester: Pilot/Paramedic, Tennessee

Brian Ceraolo: Business Development Manager for LifeForce, Tennessee

Justin Koper: Flight Paramedic and Safety Officer for HealthNet Aeromedical Services, West Virginia

Joey Loehner: EMS Planning Officer and Flight Paramedic for Humboldt General Hospital EMS, Nevada

Jeffrey White: Flight Paramedic and Director of Safety for HealthNet Aeromedical Services, West Virginia

Rhett Draehn: Safety Director of Air Division for CareFlite, Texas

ECHO Safety Team


Crew Resource Management in IIMC

by Dave Corbi, MedFlight 4 Pilot

Inadvertent Instrument Meteorological Condition (IIMC) is a potentially deadly situation that flight teams may encounter while operating in marginal weather conditions.  According to a recent FAA study: “Tests conducted with qualified instrument pilots indicated that it can take as long as 35 seconds to establish full control via instruments once visual reference to the horizon is lost.”  While MedFlight operates under visual flight rules (VFR), each pilot is instrument-rated and trained to fly in IIMC conditions.

The pilot is always in command of the aircraft.  However, safe operations is everyone’s responsibility, and everyone on-board the helicopter should have a vested interest in the safe completion of every flight. These crew resource management (CRM) actions during an IIMC event may assist the pilot and ultimately the safe completion of the flight:

  1.  A clinical team member’s actions should always support the pilot’s actions.  Keep the pilot situationally aware of deteriorating weather conditions. An example could be telling the pilot, “I can’t see the horizon any longer from the 2 o’clock to 5 o’clock position”.
  2. If the pilot is task-saturated, they may need you to make radio calls for them or perform other duties as requested. You may be asked to select and program frequencies or request assistance with air traffic control. Calls to your program’s communication center or operational control center are secondary to this radio traffic and should be completed following primary calls to local ATC.
  3. Assist in setting the aircraft GPS or communication radios as requested.
  4. Access information from the aviation resource manual or tablet and provide the pilot with requested information, such as frequencies, instrument approach plates and sectional charts.
  5. Ensure there is clear and concise communication between all team members on-board, and remain situationally-aware of the conditions you find yourself operating in.

It is important for crewmembers to understand IIMC avoidance and recovery procedures. Every crew member’s experience and knowledge can be helpful in the successful outcome of any in-flight emergency..  Take time regularly to train as a team, know where to locate and how to operate the above resources on your aircraft, and ask your pilot questions during your shift about these procedures.

Good crew resource management REQUIRES that you speak up when you have a concern.  Do not let lack of experience, or pressure to accept a flight in less-than-ideal weather, influence your decision-making.  Always trust your gut.  Remember: “Three to go, one to say no.”

Author Note:  Dave Corbi has worked as a helicopter pilot for MedFlight since 2001.  He also currently serves as the Battalion Standardization Pilot and Instrument Examiner with the Ohio Army National Guard.




Bird Strike Mitigation

Bird Strike Mitigation

By Jeff White, M.S., MTSP-C, FP-C, Director of Safety, HealthNet Aeromedical Services

Spring is here, and warmer temperatures means the risk of migratory birds is on the rise.

Along with an increased chance of bird strikes comes maintenance issues with birds nesting in open areas of aircraft.

The FAA has worked with many agencies to create risk mitigation and data collection techniques to prepare crews when flying this time of year. Date shows 66%-68% of bird strikes occur during the enroute portion of a flight, 8%-9% on approach phase and 9%-10% during climb phase. Elevations of 500’ and below is known as the bird rich zone while 93% of bird strikes occur below 3500’. To date, there has only been one known fatal HEMS accident due to a bird strike.

Here are tools available to you to assist with live tracking of birds:


Avian Hazard Advisory System

Please remember this time of year, visors and sleeves down and eyes out and always scanning. Bird strikes can occur at any time, so diligence is key.



Winter Helipad Safety Tips

Here are 10 quick tips on how to keep your helipad in SAFE shape this winter:

1.  Use only UREA or a chemical product that claims no corrosive properties or hazards to the environment, such as the ice-melting agents Sodium Acetate or Potassium Acetate.

2.  DO NOT USE ROCK SALT.  Rock salt is corrosive to the aircraft.

3.  Do not use sand as an anti-skid agent.  It will not stay in place, and creates a projectile hazard during rotor wash.

4.  Helipad warning/safety signs should be cleared of snow and remain visible.

5.  Do not bury perimeter lighting in snow piles.

6.  Do not pile snow in front of gates or routes of ingress/egress from the helipad.

7.  Snow piles immediately adjacent to the helipad greater than 2 ft high could cause damage to the helicopter tail rotor.

8.  Position snow piles so that melting snow and ice will drain from the helipad and not refreeze, creating a fall/slip hazard.

9.  Helicopters develop rotor was that typically exceeds 75-100 mph.  Dangers include serious wind chill and projectiles created by any loose snow or ice.

10.  Whiteout conditions can occur during takeoff and landings.  These can affect pedestrian and motor vehicle traffic.


**Consider helipad painting schemes that help melt ice and snow.  A red background is recommended.  See FAA Advisory Circular (AC) 150-5390-2BPara 409b. (2) and fig 4-10b**




For more info, visit

or contact:

Amanda Ball, Safety Officer at MedFlight.


Shorelines: More than Just Extension Cords

By Mark A. Farley, CFRN
Flight Nurse
HealthNet Aeromedical Services Base 9


When unplugging your ambulance or aircraft, have you ever noticed the shoreline connection felt a little warm? If so, do you realize this can potentially be a serious problem?

Even if the connection does not feel warm, an inspection of the cord and its connections
still needs to be done. This cord is essential to the Mission.Ready. philosophy we live by each day.

Ambulance manufacturers began using products for shoreline connections in the early 1970s. This equipment was equivalent to standard RV hardware that would accommodate the load of a tricklecharging for system batteries, a suction device and a hand-held radio.  This work load would pull less than 500 watts and a 15-amp residential cord could handle the demand easily. Shorelines are connected to many things today that are considered “parasitic loads.”

Some examples at minimum are a 10-amp charger for the chassis batteries, chargers for cot batteries, cardiac monitor, ventilator, suction, thermal angel/buddy lite, refrigerator and possibly a block heater.  All of this adds up!  The next time you remove the shoreline
cord and it feels warm, it is a safe bet it is delivering current more than its recommended capacity.
Always examine shoreline cords at both ends and the shoreline receptacles on both ambulances and aircraft. A safe cord should be firmly attached to its plugs on both ends. If you find cutting of the outer and inner jackets exposing bare copper, remove the cords from service immediately and notify the base lead.  Crews must be familiar with the breaker panel in their ambulance and should know where it is located and how to reset the panel. It should contain at least a 110-volt circuit breaker, which looks like a
toggle switch. There should be a number, either 15 or 20, on the visible part of the breaker which indicates the maximum amount of a 110-volt current the breaker will handle before it trips. The constant load rating for shoreline should amount to less than half of the breaker’s trip limit.
Cords should also be permanently labeled every three to four feet with the kind of wire it contains. For example, a cord that handles a max of 15 amps should be labeled 14-3 AWG. This indicates three 14-gauge wires. A cord that handles a max of 20 amps should say 12-3 AWG.  This means three 12-gauge wires.  A 12-gauge cord protected by a 20-amp breaker in the station or hangar and a 20-amp breaker in your ambulance or aircraft would be optimal.
It is recommended that ambulance and aircraft shoreline cords be replaced once each year. Each time the cord is plugged and unplugged the ends arc slightly. This arc causes some wear on the metal and creates some minor damage.  The amount of times the cords arc when plugged in wears the contacts, thus making the contacts less and less reliable when the cord is utilized over time. Cords do get wet and are run over from time to time by vehicles more than five tons.  Make it a habit to pull cords out of the drive path of
vehicles.  Habits are reliable, even when we are tired.


National EMS Health & Safety Officer Update

By Jeff White, M.S., MTSP-C, FP-C
Director of Safety
HealthNet Aeromedical Services

The National EMS Health and Safety Officer committee has been diligently
working for the past year in conjunction with the National EMS Management
Association (NEMSMA) to create a model for EMS agencies to use in selecting
a dedicated safety representative. NEMSMA already has certified and tested
positions for an EMS Director, EMS Manager, EMS Supervisor and has almost
completed the EMS QA/QI position. Now they are moving onto safety. Our
committee currently has the position description and position personal attributes
completed. We are currently in the process of creating the test model and
discussing what materials one might study or learn to achieve this position
We have based our test model on the Board of Certified Safety Professional’s
(BCSP) Associate Safety Professional (ASP) model. We have begun the process
of incorporating EMS specific modalities into this general safety model to make it
relevant for an EMS individual. Many agencies will most likely choose someone
with EMS experience, but others across the country have already begun to
incorporate general industry safety professionals into their system for a broader
look at safety processes. We hope the final model will increase the professionalism
of the position along with the industry.