Bayflite operator hit with $892,000 safety fine from FAA

FAA: Air Methods Corp. put patients in danger
Posted at 10:55 PM, Sep 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-14 23:19:05-04

The report released Wednesday by the FAA alleges the Bayflite helicopter flew 51 times when it was not airworthy endangering lives and property.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the helicopter with tail number N527BF was inspected on Nov. 4, 2014. During that inspection the Aviation Safety Inspector observed "both pitot tubes were severely corroded," the report stated.

After Air Methods was notified of the problem the FAA alleges the company flew for an additional 8 days making "51 passenger -carrying flights."

MORE: Air ambulance company charges big fees, hassles, then sues hundreds of former patients

A helicopter pilot, not associated with the company, who did not want to be connected with the report, told ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska the pitot tubes are a key component of the helicopter to measure an aircraft's speed and are critical to flight operations.

"If it is corroded it might not give accurate speed and sometimes altitude," the pilot explained. "If that was my helicopter I would've been grounded immediately."

According to the FAA, "operators are expected to respond appropriately when FAA inspectors alert them to airworthiness concerns. In this case, the FAA issued a civil fine of $892,000 because they did not do that in a timely manner.

The report states that Air Methods was "in violation of its operations specifications; after it failed to correct a known defect in the aircraft; and in a careless or reckless manner that endangered lives and property."

Since 2014, Air Methods Corp. has been hit with $2,952,000 in civil citations for safety violations from the FAA. In March of 2015 the company was issues their largest fine of $1.54 million for flying a medical helicopter over water, which according to the FAA didn't have flotation devices on board.

Air Methods Spokesperson, Christina Ward, released this statement:

Air Methods is further investigating these allegations, and the FAA has our full cooperation in the matter. What we know is the allegations included flights in an Airbus EC-135 helicopter and that the aircraft mentioned is in compliance. We take safety seriously, and the safe return of our crews and the patients we serve is and always will be our highest priority at Air Methods. In 2013, Air Methods became the first air medical provider and helicopter operator to achieve the highest level within the FAAs voluntary Safety Management System (SMS) program. We continue to raise the bar to ensure the safety of those who fly with us.