Air ambulance transport is widely regarded as improving the chances of survival for trauma victims and other critical patients. However, recent increases in the number of air ambulance accidents have led to greater industry scrutiny by government agencies, the public, the media, and the industry itself. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and others have called on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which provides safety oversight, to issue more stringent safety requirements for the industry. This testimony discusses (1) recent trends in the air ambulance industry with regard to its size, composition, and safety record; (2) recent industry and government efforts to improve air ambulance safety; and (3) potential strategies for improving air ambulance safety. This testimony is based primarily on GAO's February 2007 study on air ambulance safety (GAO-07-353). To update and supplement this 2007 report, GAO analyzed the latest safety information from NTSB and FAA, reviewed published literature on the state of the air ambulance industry, and interviewed FAA officials and industry representatives. GAO provided a copy of the draft testimony statement to FAA. FAA provided technical comments, which GAO incorporated as appropriate.
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