EMS provider Air Methods (Booth No. 1929) will not be taking deliveries of any more new Bell 429s beyond the single unit it received in October, according to CEO Aaron Todd. Air Methods was the 429’s launch customer and since 2004 it had held letters of intent for up to 15. Another helicopter EMS company acquired by Air Methods in 2007, CJ Systems, had letters for another 10.
Air Methods CEO Aaron Todd said the company posted a “good, strong profitable year” in 2009 thanks to a partial rebound in flight hours and lower operating expenses for maintenance and fuel.
Bell Helicopter Textron of Fort Worth, Texas, delivered the first Bell 429 customer aircraft to launch customer Air Methods on August 1, after which S/N 57006 flew south from Bell’s assembly facility in Mirabel, Quebec, to Mercy Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa.
A series of fatal medevac helicopter crashes last year prompted fresh calls for increased industry regulation, and by November the FAA had announced changes to the operations specifications governing helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) flights under Part 135. Those covered flight planning, weather minimums and the use of night-vision goggles (NVGs).
Air Methods purchased Omniflight’s Rescue Air operations in Atlanta and North Georgia and plans to consolidate the current operating bases of Air Methods and Rescue Air 1 into six locations in Covington, Gainesville, Griffin, Kennesaw, Newnan and a sixth yet-undetermined base serving the I-75 and I-575 corridors.
Eurocopter EC 135T2+, La Crosse, Wis., May 10, 2008–Three people–the pilot, a physician and a flight nurse–were killed when the Air Methods helicopter crashed into trees and the ground. The EC 135 hit the top of the ridgeline, where tree strikes and main rotor blade fragments were found, and the main wreckage landed on the far side of the ridgeline.
The two aeromedical Bell 407s involved in a fatal midair over Flagstaff, Ariz., on Sunday afternoon were not equipped with traffic collision avoidance systems or cockpit voice or data recorders, an NTSB spokesman told AIN.
Finalizing an acquisition process long under way, leading aeromedical transport operator Air Methods of Denver acquired Rocky Mountain Holdings (RMH) of Provo, Utah, owner of Rocky Mountain Helicopters, itself a major aeromedical operator.
Three aeromedical helicopter accidents claimed three lives in just 12 days in August and September, representing a cluster of successively serious mishaps in what otherwise had been a fairly uneventful year in terms of EMS safety.
A Bell 222 operated by Air Methods subsidiary Mercy Air crashed on September 7 at 4:40 a.m. in Baker, Calif., en route to an auto accident. Killed in the crash, Mercy Air’s first, were pilot Marshall Butler, flight nurse Ana Coburn and paramedic Kalaya Jarbsunthie. The three were based at Mercy Air’s Pahrump, Nev. base. The NTSB is conducting an investigation.