Without evidence of benefit, an intervention should not be presumed to be beneficial or safe.

- Rogue Medic

Trooper 2 Points Out Helicopter EMS Problems – I

For decades, Maryland’s medical helicopter system was praised nationally. A midnight crash changed that and put the program under the most intense scrutiny in 39 years. The crash of Trooper 2 occurred during the deadliest year ever for medevacs.[1]

This is the subtitle, or extended subtitle, of an excellent and thorough article in today’s Washington Post.

The MSP Aviation (Maryland State Police Aviation) program was praised for one reason. MSP Aviation tells everybody that MSP Aviation is the best.

OK, there was another reason. MSP Aviation was extremely lucky. This story points out some of the many ways that MSP Aviation was only prepared to have everything work out just right. MSP Aviation might as well have been selling subprime mortgages for all of the foresight they demonstrated.

I know. I know. I’m just critical of MSP Aviation because I don’t like helicopters, or MSP, or something else. That is not true. What I do not like is when people claim to be helping other people, while they really are endangering the people they claim to be helping.

Here is video that scratches the surface of what went wrong. There isn’t just one problem, but a combination of problems. Until this point, MSP Aviation only seems to have avoided this combination by incredibly good luck. Some changes have been made, but other problems are being left in place.

HEMS (Helicopter EMS) flight crew is the most dangerous job in America.[2] We cannot ask flight crews to take unreasonable risks, while their bosses are making excuses for irresponsible shortcuts.

The State Police reviewed their efforts and concluded that the search teams “did an amazing job given the circumstances,” said Maj. A.J. McAndrew, commander of State Police aviation. “There is some aircraft that takes days to find,” he said in an interview. “It only took us two hours.”

Seven years, two weeks, and two days after a hijacked plane is flown into the Pentagon. This law enforcement administrator is bragging that, within minutes of the same building, within minutes of buildings that are the targets in many terrorist’s wet dreams, he lost one of his helicopters for only two hours.

For over 20 minutes nobody seems to have known that the helicopter was even missing.

Protect

And

Serve.

Maybe it is Duck And Cover, at least at MSP Aviation.

This is not leadership.

This is not risk management.

This is just politics.

Alright. This is also leadership. This is just not good leadership.

There are 2 sentences MSP Aviation needs to learn to use.

We have a problem.

We need help.

For many people, neither is easy to admit. When somebody else’s life is on the line, we need to admit these early.

I have been critical of many mistakes at NASA, but if Apollo 13 had been handled the way that the flight of Trooper 2 was handled, would Apollo 14 ever have left the ground?

Footnotes:

^ 1 Fatal Flights – Where’s Trooper 2?
Vanishing in Midair

By Mary Pat Flaherty and Jenna Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Article

^ 2 Observations on the NTSB HEMS Hearings
Rogue Medic
Article

Dr. Blumen shows that the fatality rate for dedicated HEMS flight crews is 113/100,000 workers, while the official deadliest job is in the fishing industry at only 111.8/100,000, which is lower than that for HEMS. HEMS flight crews are not disposable. Neither are patients.

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