Ambulances & Vehicle Ops, News, Operations

Air Methods Sued for Operating Helicopter with ‘Severely Corroded’ Components

DENVER – United States Attorney Jason R. Dunn has filed a lawsuit against Air Methods Corporation, alleging the company violated violated Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations by operating an emergency-services helicopter on 51 flights after having been notified that parts necessary to determine airspeed were “severely corroded.”

The complaint alleges that on Nov. 4, 2014, an FAA Aviation Safety Inspector inspected an Air Methods helicopter in Tampa, Florida. During that inspection, the safety inspector noticed that the helicopter’s pitot tubes were severely corroded. 

Air Methods told the Denver Post, “Air Methods vigorously disputes the allegations contained in the complaint but cannot provide further comment as the litigation is pending.”

A pitot tube is a component of the pressure measurement system used to determine airspeed, federal lawmakers said. If a pitot tube is not functioning properly, it can cause the airspeed reflected on a helicopter’s instruments to vary significantly from the actual airspeed, which can present serious safety concerns.

The complaint alleges that Air Methods was aware of the hazards of operating aircraft with severely corroded pitot tubes, as it had previously experienced a helicopter incident where burnt and corroded pitot tubes became clogged, causing the helicopter’s auto-pilot to partially disengage and the aircraft’s instruments to suddenly indicate an airspeed of 30 knots higher than the helicopter’s actual speed.