""My feeling is this accident rate is epidemic," said Jim Hall, a former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.The concerns for the safety of people in the highly congested downtown Chicago area have been voiced previously. The statistics are staggering:
Investigators have just started looking into Wednesday's crash and have not reached conclusions on what factors played a role. But the accident put a new spotlight on a disturbing trend. Lax government regulation and fierce competition for customers have created a disincentive for helicopter transport companies to invest in advanced pilot training and safety equipment to protect flight crews, medical personnel and patients, the aviation authorities said.
The first step to improve safety on medical helicopters should be to immediately require two pilots on all medical helicopter flights to end a chain of accidents—15 so far this year, experts said. The safety board has called on the Federal Aviation Administration to implement reforms over the last decade, including a two-pilot requirement.In light of these data, the question now becomes what safety requirements will the FAA and City of Chicago impose for helicopters landing on rooftops in the highly congested downtown area?
Like Wednesday night's crash, 90 of the 193 accidents occurred between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., a period that authorities call the "back side of the clock" when fatigue is often a mitigating factor. In addition, 47 of the accidents involved the helicopters hitting obstacles, according to the database, which is drawn from government and industry records.