During a recent visit to Salt Lake City to address fatigue management at a conference of critical care transport professionals, National Transportation Board Member Mark Rosekind learned of a protocol designed to prevent medical helicopter accidents.
NTSB Board Member Rosekind Learns About EDP
National Transportation Safety Board Member Mark Rosekind, PhD., recently had a firsthand look at Intermountain Healthcare's En route Decision Point (EDP) protocol used by its Life Flight helicopter crewmembers. EDP provides unambiguous criteria for pilots to determine when bad weather warrants a decision to abandon course and land, or to turn around, or transition to Instrument Flight Rules (IFR). It is the backbone of the National EMS Pilots Association's "No-Pressure Initiative" designed to reduce pressure on crews to fly in riskier than normal conditions.
Rosekind was briefed on EDP by pilot Rob Anderson during a February 27 visit to Salt Lake City's Intermountain Healthcare Life Flight facility. Anderson recently used EDP during an unanticipated in-flight encounter with bad weather. He explained, "Because the decision-making criteria for aborting or landing or going to IFR is clearly established before every flight, sticking to the plan removes any pressure to continue operating in hazardous conditions."
The briefing also included a demonstration flight in one of Intermountain's Augusta AW109SP helicopters. Heavy rain cut the flight short—after only reaching 100 ft of altitude, underscoring EDP's safety benefits in quickly changing and variable weather conditions. "We were relatively close to Salt Lake International Airport where they were reporting six miles visibility in light rain," said Rosekind. "Our flight conditions were much worse than that. I can definitely understand the dilemma facing helicopter pilots flying under visual flight rules and I now have a much better appreciation of EDP's safety value."
More information about EDP is available at www.edp.nemspa.org.