Air ambulance transport is widely regarded as improving the chances of survival for trauma victims and other critical patients. However, in recent years, the number of air ambulance accidents has led to increased industry scrutiny by government agencies, the public, the media, and the industry itself. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which provides safety oversight, has been called upon by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and others to issue more stringent safety requirements for the industry. GAO's study addressed (1) recent trends in the air ambulance industry, (2) FAA's challenges in providing safety oversight, and (3) FAA's efforts to address the challenges and what is known about the effects of these efforts. To address these issues, we analyzed FAA, NTSB, and industry data, interviewed federal and industry officials, and conducted five site visits, among other things.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Transportation||1. To help FAA monitor industry growth trends, accident rates, and operator implementation of FAA guidance, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator of FAA to identify the data necessary to better understand the air ambulance industry and develop a systematic approach for gathering and using this data. At a minimum, this data should include the number of flights and flight hours, and the number and locations of air ambulance helicopters, and the number and types of FAA violations and enforcement actions related to the air ambulance fleet.|
|Department of Transportation||2. To help FAA monitor industry growth trends, accident rates, and operator implementation of FAA guidance, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator of FAA to collect information on the implementation of voluntary FAA guidance by air ambulance operators and evaluate the effectiveness of that guidance.|