GNAAS Medical Flight Helicopter Targeted by Laser Strike

The Great North Air Ambulance crew has been put at risk after being targeted by laser strikes while they were returning to base after responding to a call. The incident took place at 5:49PM on January 14, while the helicopter was returning to Durham Tees Valley Airport. A laser beam was shone right into the cabin of the medical flight helicopter.

Pilot Warns Against the Dangers of Laser Strikes For Medical Flight Helicopters

GNAAS pilot, Captain Jay Steward has made a statement, warning against the dangers of laser strikes for helicopters. Laser strikes can temporarily blind the pilot, who can lose control of the aircraft. This could put the entire crew at risk. Earlier, a Wales Air Ambulance medical flight doctor experienced temporary blindness and eye damage after being targeted by a laser strike.

During this particular incident, the beam only hit the aircraft for a few seconds. As a result, none of the crew members experienced any eyesight damage. The charity’s aircraft has been a target of laser strikes for the fourth time since November 2016. They have filed a report about the incident to aviation authorities and the police.

GNAAS Urges Public to Report Any Suspected Culprits

Captain Steward also urges the public to call the police in case they see anyone recklessly using a laser pen or if they have video evidence. He also stated that laser strikes are a serious offence. In a recent incident, a man was in jail for 20 weeks for attacking a police helicopter with a laser strike.

There is a new bill being currently considered by the U.K Parliament so that there will be tougher punishments for people who have committed laser strikes. The Laser Misuse Bill, if passed, will ensure that people who have threatened aircraft safety would face a maximum jail term of five years along with unlimited fines.

Air Ambulances, Pesky Drones and Eagles

Well, you must be wondering what the relationship is between air ambulances, drones and eagles. Going by the new Dutch experiment, they have a lot to do with each other.

Air ambulance drones in emergency medical care have been a promising development. However, there is another breed of drones that has been problematic.

Recreational drones, especially in countries like the United States, have, in recent times, been a major menace to rescue operations involving aircrafts. The fact that these are cheap and can be owned by just about anyone has worsened the situation. There are regulations that govern flying drones but we’ve seen that they are routinely violated and confiscating these cheap drones has also been an ineffective solution. The Dutch have now come up with an “instinctive” method to bring down such menacing drones.

Eagles to Help Air Ambulances and Bring Down Drones

Like most police departments of the world, the Dutch police have also been trying to tackle the drone menace effectively and have come up with the idea of using eagles in their endeavor. Tactics such as using radio interference and large nets have been used before, but they have been with risks. The biggest risk is always the chance of a drone going awry and injuring people. With “intelligent” eagles, the possibility of this is almost zero.

Eagles can improvise and change tactics mid air to catch the drones. They don’t need much training as their instincts and body structure are designed by nature to hunt prey while flying. The Dutch police have sought help from a raptor training company in Hague called the Guards from Above for this purpose.

There are a Few Concerns that Still Exist

The biggest concern is the health of the eagles. While these eagles can effortlessly bring down small drones, the larger drones pose a threat to these avian creatures. The chance of serious laceration and even amputation exists. For this reason, the Dutch are looking at protective gear to cover the claws of the eagles. Research is on in this regard. It is hoped that a solution is soon found so that air ambulances around the world can breathe free of the drone threat.

European Medical Flights Can Now be Certified by CAMTS

Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems (CAMTS) has spread its wings into Europe where it will be known as CAMTS EU. The organization will be offering accreditation to medical flights in the region according to the European Aviation Safety Agency norms or any other relevant regulations. The non-profit organization is still in the process of forming procedures and policies at the current time. The first official board meeting of CAMTS US will only take place later in the year or early next year. The medical flights can then reap the full benefits of CAMTS certification.

CAMTS has Already Accredited European Medical Flights

CAMTS EU may not make its presence felt in Europe right away but it must be noted that the organization has already accredited a few international medical flights. To be precise CAMTS has certified 9 medical flights in total, 3 of which are based out of the United Kingdom.

The Roadmap for Accreditation of Medical Flights

As a start, CAMTS EU would be relying on CAMTS Tenth Edition accreditation standards which came into being in the year 2015. However, this should pose no problems. Eileen Frazer who is the current executive director of CAMTS revealed that The Tenth Edition has been designed to accommodate international medical flights. She further revealed that relevant modifications would be made based on the local regulations. She said, ultimately, the standards internationally would be the same. The organization would take the best from all the prevailing standards across the world.

It must be noted that CAMTS is a stand-alone non-profit organization that offers accreditation to medical flights in the United States. The certification is entirely voluntary. It is offered to both rotary-wing and fixed-wing medical flights throughout the country. Just like CAMTS, CAMTS EU too would have the representatives from each of its members in the board of directors.

Medical Air Services and Satellite Weather Simulation

The new safety regulations that were put into place by the FAA have made it mandatory to install weather monitoring equipment onboard. For large operators of medical air services this regulation has been quite an impediment for business. For instance, Air Methods had to ground a large portion of its fleet due to this rule. The regulation was causing problems both to patients and the air ambulance business. However, Air Methods has now persuaded the FAA for some exceptions that will not have a huge bearing on the safety standards of its medical air services.

The FAA Exception for Medical Air Services

The exception has come in the form of satellite weather simulation. The argument placed by Air Methods was that the forecasts that are transmitted by the satellites are similar to that gathered by the radar systems. It further added that the advanced operational control center and the pilot training was enough to ensure safety of the patients and the crew members on board the air ambulances. The exception, at present, has been granted only to a few medical air services.

The Impact on Medical Air Services

The exception has had a profoundly positive business impact on Air Methods as more than one-fourth of its fleet will now be able to fly without upgrading the meteorological monitoring systems. A similar exemption was also given to Calstar medical air services, which is based out of California. Air Methods on its part opined that satellite weather simulation “gives pilots better situational awareness.”

The full use of satellite weather information during medical flights though will take a bit more time, pending pilot training. Flight Safety International has been chosen by Air Methods to train most of its pilots. The training will begin next year. The move will help save thousands of dollars as medical air services providers will need to spend less on maintenance, installation and upkeep.

Laser Pointer Threatens Medical Flight Again

In an incident that’s not a first, a medical flight in Lincolnshire, United Kingdom, was in for an unpleasant surprise last Sunday when a laser pointer was flashed at it, almost blinding the pilot momentarily. The police had immediately received a complaint about the incident from the medical flight operators. Thankfully, nothing untoward occurred and the medical flight went on to complete the flight safely. The incident happened at 7:30 in the evening, on a day when the medical flight was involved in several rescue missions.

It was a Child that Targeted the Medical Flight

Call it mischief or an innocent mistake; it was later found that a child had committed the act. However, the residents of Lincolnshire, United Kingdom, were not too pleased with the incident with one of the residents opining that the parents of the child should be held responsible for the act.

When such an incident takes place, the perpetrators not only put the medical flight in jeopardy but also the community on which the chopper might potentially crash. There is a need to educate both adults and children regarding the dangers of flashing laser pointers at aircrafts.

The Officials Showed their Concern for the Medical Flight

The Chairwoman of Witham St. Hughs Parish Council, Karen Harrison, said that the act of flashing the laser pointer by a member of their community was just appalling and that the community was in full support of any action that would be taken against the perpetrator.

A police spokesperson was reported as saying that such acts were not only dangerous but also a criminal offence. The spokesperson went on to say that the device was not a toy and must be kept out of reach of little children. It was advised that the parents take such device away from kids and destroy them before disposing them off.

The matter has been brought to the notice of UK’s Civil Aviation Authority as well as the local police of Lincolnshire.