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FAA: Air Ambulance Probe Uncovers Violations

March 6, 1988

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ A company that provides helicopters and crews for one-third of the nation’s civilian air ambulance services has violated about 120 federal aviation regulations, a newspaper reported Sunday.

The violations were uncovered in a two-month Federal Aviation Administration probe into Rocky Mountain Helicopter. The investigation focused on company safety procedures and regulation compliance, according to a story in Sunday’s editions of the Pittsburgh Press.

The company, based in Provo, Utah, supplies aircraft, pilots and mechanics to hospitals in 39 cities. Most violations deal with paperwork and record- keeping deficiencies, according to a 143-page FAA report.

Some deal with shortcomings in safety, such as a lack of documented training in evacuating patients from the aircraft in emergencies, and the handling of hazardous materials, the newspaper said.

Other allegations range from a lack of training for the company’s pilots to the failure of the director of operations and chief pilot to have the proper FAA licenses for those positions, the newspaper said.

Wayne Barlow, director of the FAA’s Northwest Mountain Region, said the violations are being reviewed and the final number could be fewer than about 120 now pending.

Rocky Mountain faces possible fines, Barlow said Friday.

″The team found a number of significant (problems), but as of this moment, we believe (Rocky Mountain) is operating in compliance with our regulations,″ Barlow said

″I assure you if we weren’t sure they were safe, we’d pull their certificate (to fly) immediately, but we’re not at this point,″ he said.

Russ Spray, the company’s vice president of emergency medical services operations, said, ″We don’t deny we made some mistakes, but we’re fixing them as fast as they’re being pointed out.″

On Feb. 12, Rocky Mountain voluntarily grounded 62 of its helicopters until mechanics could confirm all maintenance and accompanying paperwork were up-to- date and accurate.

″In most cases, this (grounding) just took long enough for a phone call to each city, but three aircraft were grounded for a day or so for repairs,″ Spray said.

On Feb. 17, Rocky Mountain grounded 24 of its pilots for two days because they lacked the proper paperwork to show they had received required training.

The inspection was spawned by congressional pressure last year on the FAA after a record-high medical helicopter accident rate in 1986, the newspaper said.

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