The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed an $892,500 civil penalty against Air Methods for allegedly operating an Airbus EC-135 helicopter on passenger-carrying flights when it was not airworthy.
The FAA alleges that during a Nov. 4, 2014 inspection in Tampa, an FAA inspector discovered that the helicopter’s pitot tubes were severely corroded. Pitot tubes are components in a system that measures an aircraft’s airspeed.
The FAA immediately notified Air Methods about the corrosion. However, Air Methods continued to operate the helicopter on 51 passenger-carrying revenue flights between Nov. 4 and Nov. 11, 2014 without repairing or replacing the pitot tubes, the FAA alleges.
The FAA alleges that because of the corroded pitot tubes, Air Methods operated the helicopter when it was unairworthy; 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.
“Operators are expected to respond appropriately when FAA inspectors alert them to airworthiness concerns,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.
“It is imperative that all operators address those concerns before operating their aircraft.”
When asked by the Aviation Tribune to comment, Air Methods spokesperson said:
“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”.
Air Methods has 30 days from receiving the FAA’s enforcement letter to respond to the agency.