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FAA Intends to Publish New Medical Flight Regulation

Scott Wallask, for HealthLeaders Media, April 22, 2009

At a Congressional subcommittee hearing today, April 22, an official from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) testified before lawmakers that the agency will begin drafting a new rulemaking for hospital EMS flights.

The FAA hopes to have a preliminary version of the rulemaking available for public comment by late 2009 or early 2010, John Allen, the director of flight standards for the FAA, told the U.S. House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Aviation today.

The FAA's move comes in the wake of a spike in medical helicopter crashes. Nine fatal medical flight accidents have occurred since December 2007, killing 35 people, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The NTSB has been pushing the FAA to enforce more aggressive medical flight regulations.

The FAA rulemaking will include many of the voluntary medical flight initiatives published by the FAA over the past few years, including a 2004 heliport design document.

Les Dorr, an FAA spokesperson, tells HealthLeaders Media Wednesday that the agency had always intended to pursue a formal rulemaking, but had encouraged the medical flight industry to voluntarily take precautionary steps while the agency completed its internal rulemaking process.

The FAA's decision comes on the heels of a report released Monday by the Flight Safety Foundation that outlines 26 major risks in the structure and oversight of the medical flight industry. The report also highlights possible steps that various parties involved in medical flight services could take to offset these risks.


Scott Wallask is senior managing editor for the Hospital Safety Center. He can be reached at swallask@hcpro.com.

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