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Occupant Injury Severity and Accident Causes in Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (1983-2014)
Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance (2016)
  • Douglas D. Boyd, Univeristy of Texas Houston
  • Nickolas D. Macchiarella, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University - Daytona Beach
"BACKGROUND: Helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) transport critically ill patients to/between emergency care facilities and operate in a hazardous environment: the destination site is often encumbered with obstacles, difficult to visualize at night, and lack instrument approaches for degraded visibility. The study objectives were to determine 1) HEMS accident rates and causes; 2) occupant injury severity profiles; and 3) whether accident aircraft were certified to the more stringent crashworthiness standards implemented two decades ago.

METHODS: The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) aviation accident database was used to identify HEMS mishaps for the years spanning 1983–2014. Contingency tables (Pearson Chi-square or Fisher’s exact test) were used to determine differences in proportions. A generalized linear model (Poisson distribution) was used to determine if accident rates differed over time.

RESULTS: While the HEMS accident rate decreased by 71% across the study period, the fraction of fatal accidents (36–50%) and the injury severity profiles were unchanged. None of the accident aircraft fully satisfied the current crashworthiness standards. Failure to clear obstacles and visual-to-instrument flight, the most frequent accident causes (37 and 26%, respectively), showed a downward trend, whereas accidents ascribed to aircraft malfunction showed an upward trend over time.

CONCLUSION: HEMS operators should consider updating their fleet to the current, more stringent crashworthiness standards in an attempt to reduce injury severity. Additionally, toward further mitigating accidents ascribed to inadvertent visual-to-instrument conditions, HEMS aircraft should be avionics-equipped for instrument flight rules flight."--from publisher's website
  • helicopter emergency medical services,
  • injury severity,
  • crashworthiness,
  • air medical services
Publication Date
January, 2016
Citation Information
Douglas D. Boyd and Nickolas D. Macchiarella. "Occupant Injury Severity and Accident Causes in Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (1983-2014)" Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance Vol. 87 Iss. 1 (2016) p. 26 - 31 ISSN: 2375-6314
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