20th century has been one of remarkable technological advancements and of increased need to further improve human existence and the speed through which man runs about its everyday life. These ideas alone have demonstrated an immense capacity of man to research and invent new ideas, mechanisms, and to elaborate on the most important technological evolutions to set these mechanisms in motion. However, these evolutions have not been without flaws and have often cost the lives of individuals and caused immense human and material damages. The present research focuses on the way in which these trends have applied to the aeronautic industry. The approach is twofold and focuses on the one hand on the technological advancements, and, on the other hand, on mitigating the risks associated with these advancements so that the development would have less negative impacts and human kind can benefit from the positive aspects of technology.
The current research is based on five important topics and considerations related to the way in which the technological advancements have been designed and adapted in a way to include increased safety measures, whether it is at the level of design, of maneuver or a post accident analysis. All these points aim to improve the operational conditions for aircrafts that can eventually save lives and make technology work for the higher common good of man.
The research is organized in five subsections that deal with five major issues currently under analysis in the aeronautic community. Question number one analyzes how human factors impact aviation accidents and how changes are made based on the recommendations. This first issue is crucial for the way in which aircrafts can be better improved and to further identify the role human error plays in accidents. As part of this question, an analysis of the role the investigator has in analyzing the post-accident scene is important because it is the investigator tha (Bell Helicopters, 2014)t ultimately puts the findings together and elaborates on the measures needed to be taken in order to avoid accidents in the future. This approach is vital for understanding the causes of an accident and for preventing those.
Question number two describes how the aviation community utilized past aircraft and science to further advance aircraft design. This approach is based on a historical overview of the advancements of technology, starting from the first important flight mechanism, the Wright Flyer of 1903 and reaching the Boeing 707 in modern times. The purpose of this historical analysis is to present and analyze the issues that have been encountered throughout the evolution of aircrafts and, at the same time, to underline the role played by the monitoring and constant research conducted at the level of the aeronautic community.
Question number three addresses the requirements for starting a scenic helicopter tour business. This approach is more functional and result oriented in the sense that it provides an overview of the elements that need to be taken into account when establishing a helicopter tour business. The presentation is useful particularly because it focuses on the conditions that need to be met in order to run the business in perfect safety conditions and at the same time to propose a business-oriented consideration without however leaving aside the safety considerations. Hence, the answer to this research question focuses not only on a business-plan type of approach but also points out the legal necessities related to such an endeavor.
Question number four deals with how the Federal Aviation Administration is going to integrate the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in the National Airspace System. The use of UASs is more and more a matter of necessity rather that an option, given the fact that their use entails a limited number of human casualties among combatants during wartime. The term was first introduced in the specialized language after the invasion of Afghanistan in the first years of the 21st century and has been used ever since as a means of conducting war without endangering combatants’ lives. The answer to this research question takes into account the definition of the term as well as the legal procedures and considerations related to the use of such systems.
Question number five discusses how an Army helicopter pilot makes the transition to become and Emergency Medical Services helicopter pilot. The approach for this question is a functional one, taking into account the fact that the transition from an Army helicopter pilot to an EMS helicopter pilot entails not only a change in career perspective but also one of advancement and reconsideration of skills and trainings. The research on this issue takes into account the necessary official requirements and at the same times the need for further improvement of skills, preparation, and certifications for the Army helicopter pilot. Finally, a personal consideration of the motivational guidelines that make an Army pilot to become an EMS pilot is necessary.
The use of aircrafts along time has determined the existence of numerous accidents at the level of civilians and aeronautic personnel as well. However, there have been instances when the accident investigator ruled the accident to be caused by human error. From this point-of-view, there is a constant need to improve the conditions and the training capabilities for the pilots regardless of the type of aircraft they maneuver in order to reduce the accidents as a result of human error. At the same time, the role of the accident investigator is that of finding out what happened and providing recommendations for future reference. The idea of “what happened” can also encompass a human error at the level of maintenance of the aircraft or the actual flying mistake. However, in order to better understand the types of incidents the investigator deals, it is important to define certain working terms.
As per the Federal Aviation Administration, an aircraft accident is “an occurrence associated with the operation of an aircraft which takes place between the time any person boards the aircraft with the intention of flight and until such time as all such persons have disembarked, and in which any person suffers death or serious injury, or in which the aircraft receives substantial damage. All aspects of the exceptions to substantial damage (see “Substantial Damage”) should be considered before making a final substantial damage determination that would classify the occurrence as an accident.” (Federal Aviation Administration, 2010) From this point-of-view, an occurrence is seen as an accident only if an event takes place with people involved. Therefore, for the purpose of this research, only the cases where people have been involved are taken into account.
One of the most important responsibilities of the FAA is related to post-accident analysis. This type of assignment is legislated at the level of federal legislation and is part of the overall coverage of post accident activities. Better said, “The responsibilities of FAA related to aircraft accident investigations in accordance with Sections 40113 and 44702 of Title 49 United States Code are to make sure that all of the facts, conditions, and circumstances leading to the accident are recorded and evaluated, and action is taken to prevent similar accidents.” (Federal Aviation Administration, 2010) Therefore, it needs to be pointed out from the onset that the most important authority related to aircraft accident investigation is the FAA and it is the responsibility of this body to conduct accident investigation through the accredited investigators.
Another important working term that needs to be properly defined as per the FAA regulation is that of the Investigator in Charge. The official definition of the role is “the FAA inspector/investigator assigned to supervise and coordinate all FAA participants in an accident or incident investigation. In each aviation investigation, the FAA IIC is responsible for the management of all FAA resources at the scene and for determining if the facts of the accident indicate that FAA responsibilities were involved in the occurrence” (Federal Aviation Administration, 2010). Therefore, it can be said that the investigator is the official voice of the FAA and from this point-of-view has strict guidelines on how to operate the scene of an accident. These guidelines are clearly pointed out in official documents issued by the FAA and include provisions related to the way in which an IIC needs to mentally and physically prepared to analyze the accident scene to the way in which it needs to consider the evidence and even protect itself from possible dangers at the scene as a result of the overall accident. These aspects are crucial for the work of an investigator from several points-of-view. On the one hand, if an investigator fails to take into account the mandatory safety measures that are provided for by the law, the ultimate result of the investigation may be modified or not taken into consideration. On the other hand, the actual safety and well being of the investigator may be put in danger, thus causing more complications related to the accident investigation. Overall, the investigator has the same responsibilities as a crime scene investigator and as a result, must follow them in a very strict manner.
The Investigator, as mentioned above has the overall coordination responsibility on the site. It is in the way in which it conducts the investigation that the results can be rapidly identified. This is also due to the fact that “the designated investigator-in- charge organizes, conducts, controls, and manages the field phase of the investigation, regardless of whether a Board Member is also on-scene at the accident or incident site. (The role of the Board member at the scene of an accident investigation is as the official spokes-person for the Safety Board.) The IIC has the responsibility and authority to supervise and coordinate all resources and activities of all personnel, both Board and non-Board, involved in the on-site investigation.” (Federal Aviation Administration, 2010)
Another important role of the Investigator, regardless of the type of action or possible cause of accident is its capacity and authority to record and provide for future reference the situation on the ground. More precisely, “the investigator makes his or her greatest contribution to air safety by documenting the reasons why aircraft occupants were fatally or seriously injured in survivable accidents” (Federal Aviation Administration, 2010) This comes to point out the essential role of the investigator to conduct the necessary research and coordinate the efforts on the ground so that answers to questions such as why as a result of an accident, certain passengers survived, while others, placed in a different part of an aircraft, did not. For instance, such a question attracts a series of considerations related to the actual conditions in which the accident took place, from the positioning of the aircraft, to the damages at the cockpit or the way in which fatal injuries occurred or not. Information of this type, combined with a complex number of processes that make up the investigation process, can reveal possible causes for the accident, can determine a flight error or, on the contrary, a machine fatal crash. The records of this type of analysis are vital for the records of the investigation and can be referenced in the future for improvements of trainings, of machine-related considerations or even as case studies in flight schools.
One of the most significant issues under analysis however is related to the accidents that take place as a result of human error. It is the belief that human error is at the foundation of whether an accident can take place or not, particularly because it is the pilot that makes the decisions determined by the conditions in the air. At the same time though, it must be pointed out that the pilot is above all, dealing with a machine, regardless of the advanced technology on board. Therefore, there have been accidents when the role of human error in an accident has been without equivoque, but, in general, human error is determined by outside factors, such as mechanics or weather conditions.
Along the time a vast research in the area of reasons for aviation accidents has been conducted. At least until the 21st century, the general conclusion was that the main reason for aviation accidents has been the human error. In this sense, “It is generally accepted by accident investigators in the field that aviation accidents are the result of a chain of events culminating with the unsafe acts of operators (i.e., aircrew)â€¦ Although percentages vary, most would agree that somewhere between 60% and 80% of aviation accidents are attributable, at least in part, to human error” (Shappell, 2007). Aside from academic research conducted on this subject, aircraft producers consider human factors to be responsible for the production of accidents in a very large degree. More precisely, Boeing, one of the largest aircraft manufacturers in the world cosniders that “Human error has been documented as a primary contributor to more than 70% of commercial airplane hull-loss accidents. While typically associated with flight operations, human error has also recently become a major concern in maintenance practices and air traffic management.” (Boeing, 2014)
There are several definitions of “human factors” when applied to the aviatic industry. One of these definition include the broader sense of human cosndieration of training and actual capacity and expertise of the pilots and maintaininace crew. In other words, “In aviation, human factors is dedicated to better understanding how humans can most safely and efficiently be integrated with the technology. That understanding is then translated into design, training, policies, or procedures to help humans perform better.” (Boeing, 2014)
As per the FAA, human factors take into account the performance of the individuals that are part of the process of piloting, maintainnace, building and even designing the aircrafts. In this sense, the approach provided by the FAA is human oriented in the sense that it takes into account the human nature of the overall mechanisms. More precisely, “It is a term that covers the science of understanding the properties of human capability, the application of this understanding to the design, development, and deployment of systems and services, and the art of ensuring successful application of human factor principles into the maintenance working environment.” (Federal Aviation Administration, n.d.) A recent chart from the FAA suggests that in 1903 the cause of the accidents was almost always the technical part of the aircraft. As the technologies improved, the human factors were more and more a cause of the accidents and this situation culminates with today’s situation of almost 80% of accidents to be the result of human error.
The investigator at the scene of an aviatic accident must take into account the fact that human factor data represents one of the most important aspects to be immediately analyzed and considered. This is due to the fact that this evidence is seen as perishable and should be treated with care and immediate attention. Most importantly the investigator needs to preserve the scene and to be particularly careful about the details. The way in which the investigator puts the pieces together and establishes the role each of the elements played in causing the accident represents the added value for further research and the recommendations mmade to the Safety Management System (SMS).
The investigator analyzes the human factors by reviewing several key areas where human error can appear: the pilots and the maintenance area. Issues such as stress, fatigue, working extra hours, the working environment to be stressful, all these are part of the distress factors that cause a general state of mind inappropriate for conducting actions as brain solicitation during flight. According to the FAA, part of the factors that determine human errors include “fatigue, loud noises, poor communication, lack of tools and equipment, slippery floors, snow, incomplete or incorrect documentation, poorly designed testing for skill and knowledge, poor training, personal life problems, substance abuse, poor tool control, unrealistic deadlines, boring repetitive jobs, poor instructions, lack of spare parts” (Federal Aviation Administration, n.d.) These elements are essential to be taken into account by investigators as they can shed some light on the human conditions at the movement of the accident.
As it can be seen from the list of possible factors named above, the elements under discussion can take into consideration all the areas of the flight segment, from the pilot to the maintenance crew. This is largely due to the fact that the Investigator must take into consideration all the human elements that could become relevant or whose limited performance could impact the overall performance of the crew and the accident under analysis.
Following an investigation, it is the duty of the Investigator to provide the recommendations to the SMS because, it is considered that the investigation’s role is not necessary to find the responsible parties and punish, but rather to improve for the future the safety measures and to ensure that the causes related to human factors and/or technical issues are reduced. Therefore, the main responsibility of the Investigator is to share its findings and provide recommendations. In terms of the human factors that are at the basis of an accident, if identified, need to be corrected. One example in this sense can be the reduction in working hours or the improvement of working conditions for the maintenance crew. On the other hand, if fatigue is considered to have played a role in the accident and the pilot/s were identified as overworking, a possible recommendation would be a closer monitoring of the working hours and a more careful analysis of pre-flight human conditions. The same is applicable for the rest of the on-board crew as they are an integral part of the human flight mechanism.
Another essential part of the role of the investigator is to evaluate the safety program procedures and draw a conclusion on the results of the incident. This includes the impact of human factors and human error on the incident and how to prevent it from happening again. The recommendations then become an integral part of the improvement of the Safety Management Systems that are set in place as a result of recommendations from international bodies such as the International Civil Aviation Organization. This type of approach is not specific to the aviation industry but rather it represents a standard for safety that most industries should take into account.
In the United States, the FAA defines SMSs as “the formal, top-down business approach to managing safety risk, which includes a systemic approach to managing safety, including the necessary organizational structures, accountabilities, policies and procedures.” (Federal Aviation Administration, 2014) The system as it stands now is focused on four individual pillars that make up the concepts of safety culture. These are safety policy, safety risk management, safety assurance, and safety promotion (Federal Aviation Administration, 2014)
The role of the investigator and the recommendations it makes as a result of an accident can be seen at the level of pillar four, safety promotion, which includes aspects of “training, communication, and other actions to create a positive safety culture within all levels of the workforce.” More precisely, the FAA defines the pillar as focusing on several aspects: “Providing SMS training, Advocating/strengthening a positive safety culture, System and safety communication and awareness, Matching competency requirements to system requirements, Disseminating safety lessons learned” (Federal Aviation Administration, 2014).
Overall the role of the investigator is crucial not only for identifying the elements that led to the accident but also for creating lessons learned and share the experiences in a manner that can create further references to avoid. Even so, the system of investigation, the methodologies, as well as the actions undertaken as a result of such investigations need to be properly documented in order to make their way in systems such as the SMSs and then transformed into increased safety measures taken before a similar accident takes place.
A clear example of the way in which the aeronautic industry has constantly embraced evolution and the lessons learned is the development of more and more advanced aircrafts that would cater for the increased needs of the human to improve and to match what are otherwise mere technological dreams. A review of the way in which aircrafts have evolved in time, from the 1903 Wright Flyer to the Boeing 707 provides the necessary background for the development of aeronautical technology. However, it must be pointed out that it is the lessons learned from the manufacturing of the first aircrafts that led to an improvement of the way in which technology is put to use to reduce the number of accidents as a result of technological failure.
The first flying machine was the result of increased research at the end of the 19th century and was first tested at the beginning of the 20th century. The breakthrough provided the world a taste of what would later become one of the most important research topics of the 20th century, the aviation industry. More precisely, the Wright Flyer was the first machine to engage in a flight above ground. More precisely, “The Wright Flyer was the product of a sophisticated four-year program of research and development conducted by Wilbur and Orville Wright beginning in 1899. After building and testing three full-sized gliders, the Wrights’ first powered airplane flew at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903, making a 12-second flight, traveling 36 m (120 ft), with Orville piloting. The best flight of the day, with Wilbur at the controls, covered 255.6 m (852 ft) in 59 seconds” (Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, 2014).
The success of the Wright Brothers transformed them into instant heroes despite the fact that their plane was far from what is understood today by the terms. Among the major achievements by the Wright brothers was the fact that it was the first aircraft that had the possibility to propel and gain speed with a man on board. Of course the attempts to achieve this were numerous and in 1908, the first air casualty was registered when the plan crashed in Virginia. More precisely, “Thomas Etholen Selfridge became the first military air casualty when a plane in which he was a passenger, and which was piloted by Orville Wright, crashed during Army performance tests at Fort Myer, Virginia, on September 17, 1908.” (Arlington Cemetery, 2014) The result of the analysis of the crash suggested that it was a human error that determined the accident, in the sense that the pilot made a swift and steep turn which determined the propeller of the plane to snap off and the plane to crash. Despite this incident, the Wright Brothers managed to sell their invention to the U.S. Army as well as oversees in Europe.
The major breakthroughs registered by the Wright Flyer were the use of propellers, the ability of the pilot to steer the plane depending on the movement of the body and, above all, the ability of the plane to gain speed. The pilot was in this case essential for the way in which the machine would produce results. The main idea behind the machine was the full control of the pilot and a sufficient time for the aircraft to stay aloft. The materials used at the time were far from the ones currently used. The National Air and Space Museum describe the machine as “Canard biplane with one 12-horsepower Wright horizontal four-cylinder engine driving two pusher propellers via sprocket-and-chain transmission system. No wheels; skids for landing gear. Natural fabric finish; no sealant or paint of any kind.” (Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, 2014)
It must be pointed out that the machine was rudimentary in its finest details and it is only the mere concept that is thought of today. Yet, even so, the machine represents a milestone in the aeronautic engineering and paved the way for new research on the subject.
The next significant milestone in the history of aviation relates to the creation of the Ryan Monoplane, the first ever plane to make the distance between New York and Paris in a non-stop flight. It must be pointed out that the conditions under which this flight was achieved are far different from the oens currently applicable for aircraft carriers. However, for 1927, the success was extraordinary and included a prize for this achievement of $25,000. The recognition for the success was obvious. “Our messenger of peace and goodwill has broken down another barrier of time and space.” So spoke President Calvin Coolidge about Charles A. Lindbergh’s extraordinary solo transatlantic flight in 1927. Not until the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969 was the entire world again as enthusiastic about an aviation event as it was when Lindbergh landed his little Ryan monoplane in Paris” (Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, 2014)
As per the description of the Museum that holds the aircraft for display, the evolution form the first flight of the Wright Brothers was significant. It must be stressed that there had been additional evolutions from the Wright Brothers, in the form of the Ryan M2 but in terms of the visibility of the machine, the Ryan Monoplane was a huge breakthrough. In this sense, particular elements included a closer attention to detail and a significantly more powerful engine that had been made by the Wright Brothers. More precisely, the plane was “Silver colored doped fabric covered high wing single radial engine monoplane. The “Spirit of St. Louis” was designed by Donald Hall under the direct supervision of Charles Lindbergh. It is a highly modified version of a conventional Ryan M-2 strut-braced monoplane, powered by a reliable 223hp Wright J-5C engine. Because the fuel tanks were located ahead of the cockpit for safety in case of an accident, Lindbergh could not see directly ahead, except by using a periscope on the left side or by turning the airplane and looking out a side window.” (Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, 2014).
In terms of safety issues, there are several points that need to be taken into account. On the one hand, the positioning of the fuel tanks, although efficient from a mechanical point-of-view, put the safety of the pilot at great risk in case of an accident. During the 33 hours flight, should an event take place that would determine the crash of the plane, the pilot’s death would have been imminent as his body would have been crushed by the fuel tanks. Another aspect to be taken into account was the reduced visibility of the pilot as he was not able to see straight ahead because of the engine in front. The only means of visibility were the side windows, an issue which would have put the pilot’s life in danger if there had been something in front of him and would have had limited time of response. It must be said that even with airplanes today it is very difficult to avoid an obstacle if in near distance from the plane. Back in the old days, given the fact that technology was far less advanced than today, in case of an obstacle, the crash and obvious death of the pilot would have been certain.
The plane had made several journeys that would go down in history. Among others on 1927 the first transcontinental flight between San Diego and New York, Washington to Mexico City and other parts of Latin America. The invention and the technological evolutions proved to be a major success and a true advancement for the history of aviation.
Another major milestone in the history of aviation, from all points-of-view, is the creation of the DC-3 from Boeing with the first flight in 1935. Among the most important characteristics is the increased luxury that passengers (more than one) were offered on short or long trips. The evolution of the aeronautic industry after the Ryan monoplane focused on increasing the power of the engine, reducing the time of transportation and, above all, providing air travel to more than one person. The DC-3 provided just that. Boeing considers the plane to “the greatest airplane of its time. Some would argue that it is the greatest of all time” (Boeing, 2014). One of the most significant points made by Boeing in relation to this plane from a commercial point-of-view is that it made commercial travel possible and expensive to the extent of profit, yet affordable. Soon after the first flight in 1935, orders from all major airlines included the production of the DC3. “The DC-3 was not only comfortable and reliable, it also made air transportation profitable. American’s C.R. Smith said the DC-3 was the first airplane that could make money just by hauling passengers, without relying on government subsidies. As a result, by 1939, more than 90% of the nation’s airline passengers were flying on DC-2s and DC-3s.” (Boeing, 2014)
The appeal for this model was also the capacity of the plane. In terms of accommodation, the plane could take in “3 crew and 14 sleeper passengers, or 21 to 28 day passengers, or 3,725 to 4,500 pounds freight” (Boeing, 2014) Moreover, the maximum speed of the plane was of 192 mph which was a clear increase from the Ryan Monoplane which had 133 mph maximum speed. Also, by comparison, the DC-3 had two 1,200-horsepower Wright Cyclone radial engines each, which provided extensive power and speed.
Before the Second World war started, Boeing released a new version of one of the most important planes ever built from the perspective of the technical parameters and the luxury it provided as well as the first safety measures that are visible to this day. The Statoliner is one of the most well-known aircrafts of the pre-war period for the appeal it had among the richest people in America, amongst which Howard Hughes. The maiden flight was on Dec. 31st, 1938 and was considered a huge success. The most important characteristics of the plane included the ability to fly at over 20,000 feet, more than any other plane until that time. Also, in terms of the space provided for the crew members, the design was thought of in a circular shape fuselage in order to ensure sufficient space for the crew and the passengers.
The capacity of the plane was not significantly different from the DC 3 although it had room to accommodate two new members of the crew. One addition to the crew was the flight engineer, “The engineer was responsible for maintaining power settings, pressurization and other subsystems, leaving the pilot free to concentrate on other aspects of flying the aircraft.” (Boeing, 2014) This can be seen as one of the most important measures related to the safety of the passengers and the flight itself and a measure taken to reduce the human factors that would lead to accidents.
The introduction of the flight engineer solved several problems at the level of the safety and of the plane maneuvering. On the one hand, it allowed the pilot to fully focus on the actual managing of the plane and on the other hand, the board elements that were introduced along the time to improve the flight and the risk of accidents had to be monitored at the same time. The flight engineer was responsible with monitoring these board elements and interpreting them without the pressure of additional manual commands. Moreover, it must be pointed out that unlike its predecessors from Boeing, the Statoliner was twice as powerful, with four 1,000-horsepower Wright Cyclone engines that would reach a 246 mph top speed. This is all the more reason to consider the improvements in the safety department, given that the capacity of the plane in terms of power and steering had visibly increased. The major improvement in the safety measures undertaken with this model points out the fact that safety mechanisms set in place since the early inceptions of the aviation era were prone to constant modifications and improvements as a result of lessons learned from past experiences.
Finally, the Boeing 707 represents a special breed of aircrafts and established an entire standard in terms of flying from both a technical and a commercial perspective. “America entered the age of the jet transport on July 15, 1954, when the Boeing 707 prototype, the model 367-80, made its maiden flight from Renton Field, south of Seattle. Forerunner of the more than 14,000 Boeing jetliners built since, the prototype, nicknamed the “Dash 80,” served 18 years as a flying test laboratory before it was turned over to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in May 1972.” (Boeing, 2014)
The evolution of the aircraft broke new barriers with the Boeing 707 family particularly because the concepts behind the prototype were different from that the industry had seen up to that point. The modifications were immense as the approach to flying was based on a new type of engine, different propulsion mechanism and increased safety mechanisms. The four engines used for the airplane were turbojets, a technology which although was invented in the 1930s, had not been used frequently due to the limited applicability until other elements of technology were being set in place in order to ensure that the aircraft could fly at high altitudes to avoid the noise and the additional effects of turbojets.
Among the most important elements of the engine was the construction, which included a means of combustion in the combustion chamber, the turbine, and the nozzle. The propulsion is ensured by the air compressed in the chamber which is heated by the fuel combustion. The major inconvenient in this type of engine however is the increased noise it created (Boeing, 2014). Therefore increased measures of avoiding the noise were introduced and the engine itself was made available only for aircrafts that would fly at very high altitudes.
The 707 prototype was mostly used for trials in the sense that it provided the necessary technical mix to test various configurations that would later on be part of line aircrafts. Aside from the four powerful turbo jets, the improvements on the prototypes included an increased wing span which resulted in a reconfiguration of the combined architecture between the engines and the wings. More precisely, “Powered then by four Pratt & Whitney JT3 turbojets, mounted under wings swept back 35 degrees, the Dash 80 established the classic configuration for jetliners to come. It also set new speed records each time it flew. This was illustrated March 11, 1957, when it streaked nonstop on a press demonstration flight from Seattle to Baltimore in 3 hours 48 minutes at an average speed of 612 mph” (Boeing, 2014). As opposed to its predecessors, the speed that could be registered in the prototype was almost three times bigger and set new standards for the following commercial turbo jets.
The Boeing 707 prototype, or the Dash 80 as it was called, never reached series production and is currently on display in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. However, there are considerable achievements that can be attributed to the prototype in the sense that tests related to different flight mechanisms were done, the design of wing flaps for more recent models of the Boeing was drawn from test done on the Dash 80 as well as improvements in the landing gear. For instance, “A high-lift, slow speed system featuring special wing flaps for direct-lift control was used in steeper-than-usual landing approaches designed to alleviate community noise in airport areas.” (Boeing, 2014)
Perhaps the most important overall achievement of the 707 prototype was the fact that its construction and testing allowed modern jetliners to replace the propeller airplanes in a short period of time. The prototype was the clear example that larger, more powerful, and faster airplanes could provide an increased sense of luxury while reducing the time of travel for longer distances.
The advancement of aeronautical knowledge came initially as a scientific research but eventually came to represent a necessity especially after the First World War when the projects related to improving fighting capabilities emerged from the American Army. For instance, if by 1903 the Wright Brothers aircraft had the wings supported by external devices, by the end of the First World War, the wings were attached to the machine through an internal device. Then engines as well were reconsidered in time, once the interest to develop flying machines increased. In this sense, “Both pusher- and tractor-type engine installations were employed, and multiengine bombers frequently utilized a combination of pusher and tractor power plant installations. The pusher-type configuration was used extensively as a fighter, particularly by the British, in the early stages of the war.” (Loflin, n.d.) The war period provided a crucial moment in the history of aviation particularly because it offered the need to improve the technological capabilities of the aircrafts. It was of no surprise that the aircrafts had been invented. Hence it was essential that the way in which each side would improve the machines would add to the potential war effort. Therefore, starting with the interwar period, constant reseach was conducted on both sides of the Atlantic to find means to improve the way in which aircrafts could handle themselves and would improve against the enemy machine. This is one of the reasons for which the Germans initiated important research programs between the two World Wars.
The evolutions from the very first types of aircrafts and the DC3 for instance were significant and most likely seen as from two different eras. For instance, among the first airplanes from the Wright Brothers’ first attempt, the E-III was “powered with the 100-horsepower Oberursel rotary engine (â€¦)In order to limit centrifugal stresses, rotary  engines developed maximum power at relatively low rotational speeds, in the range of 1200 to 1400 revolutions per minute. The large diameter propeller on the Fokker E-IV was dictated by the low rotational speed of the engine. By modern standards, the engines of most World War I aircraft developed rated power at low rotational speed and utilized large diameter propellers. The propulsive efficiency was accordingly high at low speeds, which gave aircraft of that period good takeoff and climb characteristics” (Loflin, n.d.) During the war period, the speeds of the aircrafts were in the area of 100 mph, which, compared to the Boeing 707 was almost 6 times slower whereas the size of the aircraft is incomparable. However, the comparison is made in order to provide a unit of measure between the evolution of technology in fifty years.
Especially during the war years and in the attempts to reduce cost and maximize production, the ideas related to improving the design of the aircraft became imminent and easily implementable. In this sense, for instance, for one type of aircraft used towards the end of the First World War, the Camel, the wings were adjusted. More precisely, “The flat upper wing of the Camel was dictated by a desire for production simplicity. The original intention was to construct the wing in one piece, although in production it was made in three pieces. The dihedral of the lower wing was accordingly made sufficiently large to compensate for the flat upper wing. The Camel utilized a relatively new innovation in wing-bracing wires.” (Loflin, n.d.) Throughout the period, there were numerous attempts to improve the design ad sped of the aircrafts in order to better suit the needs of the time, that was to be fast, easy to maneuver and safe on the ground and in combat. Such challenges however had to also take into account the need to transport weapons and to be extremely fast in reacting.
The end of the First World War saw a surplus in military aircrafts that had no use in terms of commercial exploitation. More precisely, “The requirements of civil aviation during this time period presented little incentive for advanced aircraft developments. No airlines devoted to the transportation of passengers existed in the United States; however, the Government operated a primitive airmail service that linked various cities in the United States, and the first coast-to-coast airmail service was established in 1921.” (Loflin, n.d.) This is the reason for which civil aviation became an issue after the war, from the need to employ several other types of aircrafts for transportation of passengers. The monoplane was a result of these attempts.
The technological advancements that fueled the evolution of aircrafts included the constant research conducted in research centers such as Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) which reviewed possible means through which aerodynamics, propulsion, forms, means of control could be used and applied to the then aircrafts and improve their capabilities. Furthermore, the increased number of research conducted at the level of the technical universities provided added value to the practical tests performed until that point. The result was important for both civil and military aviation.
The interwar period and the Ryan monoplane produced some important technical changes. One of those changes is related to the cooling system that until that point had been based on a radiator. The Ryan monoplane introduced the air cooled feature. More precisely, this evolution “resulted in the deletion of the radiator and associated plumbing that was always a source of maintenance and reliability problems on liquid-cooled engines.” (Loflin, n.d.)
The monoplane also provided improvements at the level of the engine in the sense that it ensured a different configuration of the cylinders, despite the fact that the total number of cylinders did not vary. More precisely, “the Wright engine actually only has a single row of nine cylinders, while the Pratt and Whitney engine does indeed have 2 rows of 7 cylinders each.” (Loflin, n.d.)
A crucial evolution in terms of the design and performance is the introduction of the retractable landing gear in the mid 1930s. This change allows the aircraft to improve the speed of its flight by reducing the drag in the air. From the very initial airplanes, the landing gear had been a source of reduction of speed which did not allow for an aerodynamic shape and hence a limited speed regardless of the power of the engine/s or the weight of the aircraft. The retractable landing gear offered the possibility to improve the shape of the aircraft and at the same time to allow a smooth take off and landing. However, the tests that would later be conducted on the landing gear were crucial to verify the stability of the gear at the take off and landing moment, taking into account the fact that the landing gear had become mobile and the pressure of the procedures relied heavily on the tires of the landing gears and its joints.
Overall, the evolutions of technology were largely spurred by the need to improve army capabilities and at the same time, after the way, when the commercial potential was sought after the usage of war-time carriers for public services (the airborne mail system in the United States), the need to address safety issues and luxury demands (flights were becoming longer and destinations very varied), the advancements in technology and research flowed naturally.
Once flying became an option for man, the resources available and the research conducted in the area allowed for a reconsideration of the commercial potential that can come out of the need or desire of man to fly. This was visible since the early beginning of flying but it became a reality once the safety measures and the conditions allowed people to consider flying as a means of transportation. From this point-of-view, private jets together with private flying companies have established themselves as valid additional means of transportation and an option to the traditional road or naval transportation for leisure time.
Regardless of the fact that flying is, taken as a bulk figure, a means of transportation more expensive then road, rail, or sea alternatives, it provides a different type of experience and if done properly, research has shown, it is safer than the above mentioned alternatives.
Tourism has widely benefited from the possibility to fly as it has brought remote areas in reach of tourists, reduced travel times and costs, and most importantly has allowed to use flying as a means of tourism in itself. There are a lot of types of businesses that were created as a result of the possibility to fly. One example in this sense is the helicopter scenic tour business which provides helicopter tours for different touristic areas. The demand for such touristic activities is increasing particularly because of the desire to explore areas that would otherwise be somewhat out of reach.
There are numerous examples of businesses of this sort throughout the world. One of the most important aspect to be taken into account though in considering starting such a business is the mandatory requirement to align to all the safety rules and regulations needed in order to operate the helicopter with civilians on board. One account from one of the managers of a Canadian helicopter tour business agrees that “When you’re starting your own business, there are all kinds of operational issues — things you don’t expect at all if you haven’t done it before. With their mentorship and their resources, it was like having a business partner — someone you could ask questions to.” For example, their CYBF mentor helped them through the maze of regulations and procedures involved with hiring and managing human resources, a task that can be a full time job. “They pretty much set you up so you don’t fall flat on your face in something like human resources or taxes,” she says.” (Center for Small Business Financing, 2014)
Unlike other types of start-up businesses, the helicopter tour business requires special attention and accreditation and a significant investment in terms of financial resources. The simple fact that the pilot flying the helicopter has the lives of the people on board in his / hers hands adds pressure on the way in which the job needs to be conducted. Furthermore, given the risks involved, the authorities are extremely exigent in regards to licensing, accreditations and different other legal conditions needed to be met in order to be able to conduct this type of touristic activity.
In order to operate a flight carrier be it airplane or helicopter, there are certain regulations that need to be followed as a matter of immediate and mandatory requirements. Firstly and most importantly, the pilot under discussion needs to be an accredited pilot and to have taken all exams as well as medical clearance that is needed on a recurrent basis.
The nest step is the accreditation process which in the United States falls under a specific certification process. More precisely, “in most cases, if an operator provides air transportation of persons or property for compensation or hire, the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) require that a commercial operating certificate be issued. Operators of business aircraft that wish to conduct operations for compensation or hire are generally certificated under Part 135 of the FARs. As a certificate holding entity, the operator must comply with a number of FAA requirements regarding areas such as flight operations, maintenance and training.” (Federal Aviation Administration, n.d. )
The list of compliance or of the conditions that must be met by the pilot applying for certification is rather long and includes, among other documents, a full documentation of the aircraft, medical examinations, equipment lists, the proof of exclusive use of one aircraft. A list of guidelines is available as “Advisory Circular 120-49 and “provides an overview of the certification process. Each applicant should review this document during the initial stages of the certification process” (Federal Aviation Administration, n.d.) Once the application for the certification process is set, the check that is applied on the legislation knowledge is done at the time of the certification and every year after the certification is obtained. This check include FAR Â§135.293 (the VFR Competency Check), FAR Â§135.297 (the IFR Proficiency Check) and FAR Â§135.299 (the Line Check).
The certification process is rather grueling and can take a long time to undergo, even two years; however, it is important that the application for certification be done after the purchase of the helicopter and the establishment of the place of storage and maintenance.
One of the most important aspects in setting up the business is related to the actual aircraft that ones needs to purchase and depends on the actual needs of the business plan has in mind. In this sense, it is important to consider the needs of the business, the budget, and the expected costs of the aircraft, the use, storage, and maintenance (the operational costs).
Some of the most common aircrafts used for tourism are manufactured by either Bell or Eurocopter. For the purpose of the present research, the comparison in order to best choose a helicopter that would fit the purposes of the business is made between a Bell 407GX helicopter and a Eurocopter EC-130.
In order to make the choice of the aircraft that would be purchased, the type and size of the business must be taken into account. In this sense, it is important to consider whether it is a small size business or a large size one. It must be pointed out from the start that establishing and operating a helicopter tour business requires substantial financial investments particularly due to the conditions that are imposed by the law. The need to guarantee that the aircraft is used solely by that business implies that the aircraft needs to be purchased or at least rented exclusively for the business. Also, the legal requirements related to safety and the personnel of that business add to the costs of starting the business. Finally, the maintenance costs of the aircraft are rather significant and need to be taken into account when drafting the business plan.
For the purpose of this research, the business taken into account is a large size business that took into account in the business plan the acquisition of a helicopter at a price range of 1.5-2 million dollars. For small helicopter businesses the prices can reach even 350,000 dollars; however, the main difference between high class aircrafts and their less expensive counterparts is whether they are purchased new or second hand. The choice was made to purchase a new aircraft under the consideration that the business would be a long-term business and the investment would in time be justified.
The necessities of the business take into account as first point of approach the comfort of the passengers and improving their touristic experience. Therefore, the visibility attribute is crucial. Another aspect to be taken into account is the noise done by the aircraft, for both the environment and the passengers.
Bell Helicopters 407GX
(Bell Helicopters, 2014)
Eurocopter EC-130 (Airbus Helicopters, 2014)
Speed – max
Weight — max
Fuel requirement – max
127.8 U.S. gal
The Eurocopter EC 130 was chosen particularly because it fits the intended purposes that are scenic tours over the city of New York. The size of the aircraft includes more passengers, the design of the aircraft allows for a panoramic visibility for all those in the aircraft. Furthermore, the reduced noise levels together with the increased comfort inside the aircraft would be an adequate choice for the business.
Once the type of helicopter has been chosen, there are considerable ongoing costs as well as maintenance issues that need to be taken into account in the business plan. For instance, the possibility to operate the aircraft year round is dependent on the type of aircraft. A year round aircraft implies a more substantial cost because of the additional features that need to be taken into account in the choice of the aircraft. The possibility to fly during storms or in extreme windy conditions is not just a matter of aircraft but it also requires particular accreditation procedures from the FAA. In the current case, the weather conditions throughout the year in the region of New York would allow for the aircraft to run normally regardless of the season. Moreover, the technical capabilities of the aircraft allows for an adequate and safe operation of the aircraft, given that it has included a special design to resist high winds and possible stormy weather.
In order to ensure that the proper conditions are met regarding the way in which air flight is conducted over areas densely populated, the FAA included special provisions and conditions that need to be met by tour operators. These read, “specifically, the FARs permit an operator to conduct external load operations over congested and densely populated areas provided the following conditions are met. Each flight must be conducted at an altitude, and on a route, that will allow a reasonable external load to be released, and the rotorcraft landed, in an emergency without hazard to persons or property on the surface. However, in the event of an emergency involving the safety of persons or property, a certificate holder may deviate from the rules of this part to the extent required to meet that emergency” (New York City, 2013)
The decision on where to store the aircraft when not in use is dependent on the type and location of business; it is highly advisable that the storage place be in the vicinity of the main area of operation. Therefore, if the business is conducted above a city area, the location for the storage should be immediately outside the city area. Furthermore, it is important to consider at the moment of drafting the business plan the type of tourism to be conducted because, for instance, in the case of city tours, special accreditation is needed to allow flying over crowded residential areas (this accreditation takes into account the possibility of emergency landing and the means to do so).
The threats at the level of national security have increased dramatically especially after the 9/11 attacks that have led to an increased awareness to the threat of terrorism and non-conventional warfare. This increased attention has resulted in the development and deployment of different types of devices that would on the one hand improve the way in which the U.S. defends its borders and at the same time how it can deploy war if the need arises without producing civilian casualties or reducing them to the minimum. In this sense, the Unmanned Aircraft Systems became more operational. Yet there is a constant discussion on how to better integrate the UASs into the National Airspace System (NAS). These discussions are fueled by the need to integrate a concept and make it practical. Better said, the UAS / UAVs are an important development in terms of technology and have proven their added value both at the practical level and at the level of efficiency. However, these aircrafts are not standard and focus on a concept that is still new to the general public and the professionals. Therefore, in order to ensure that an unmanned device can operate in complete safety for the rest of the participants to air traffic it is important to adjust the current conditions and adapt them to change. What can be said regarding this initiative is that the “battle” is to adapt a system to the challenges of novelty in a way as to maintain safety but also put at use an important technological advancement that is the UAS/UAVs.
For the purpose of this research it is important to clearly define the term of UAS / UAV. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, “Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) aka (UAV) – a device used or intended to be used for flight in the air that has no onboard pilot. This includes all classes of airplanes, helicopters, airships, and translational lift aircraft that have no onboard pilot. Unmanned aircraft are understood to include only those aircraft controllable in three dimensions and therefore, excluding traditional balloons and un-powered gliders” (Federal Aviation Administration, 2010). In simple language, UAS / UAV encompass all modern type aircrafts that are not controlled by a pilot when in the air.
The NAS is a crucial element in the overall legislation scheme that legislates the aviation environment in the United States. The history of the NAS dates back to the first years of modern aviation practice. More precisely, “About two decades after the introduction of powered flight, aviation industry leaders believed that the airplane would not reach its full commercial potential without federal action to improve and maintain safety standards. In response to their concerns, the U.S. Congress passed the Air Commerce Act of May 20, 1926, marking the onset of the government’s hand in regulating civil aviation.” (Federal Aviation Administration, n.d.) As the air traffic increased in size and volume, so did the need for safety measures that would ensure a proper environment for the users of the airspace.
As the air traffic increased constantly, the security needs and the safety procedures increased in size, depth and volume. This evolution allowed the FAA and the NAS to better communicate and cooperate at the level of ensuring airport safety, air safety, and additional considerations that would ensure a clear view on the attributions of all the parties involved. An important aspect in the history of collaboration between the NAS and the FAA was in 1991. More precisely, “in February 1991, the FAA replaced the NAS Plan with the more comprehensive Capital Investment Plan (CIP), which outlined a program for further enhancement of the ATC system, including higher levels of automation as well as new radar, communications, and weather fore- casting systems.” (Federal Aviation Administration, n.d. ) This change came as a result of increased air traffic and technological advancements that allowed for a better coordination among institutions. This approach was essential in the proper development of the aviation system largely because of the complexity of the mechanisms that have been invented along the time and at the same time due to the increasing number of participants in air traffic. In the beginning, back in the 1900s, there were few people that would take part in such activities and therefore few chances of accidents or collisions. At the moment, at any given time, there are hundreds of aircrafts accessing the aviation environment and without a clear and methodical approach to accessing the aviation space, flying would not be safe. Furthermore, the weather conditions have become a huge factor to be taken into account and therefore the need to coordinate information in order to ensure safe flying had to be addressed at the policy level.
The attempt for better coordination was translated in the creation of the Operational Evolution Plan which aims at bringing together all the stakeholders in the air traffic related areas to work together on four main issues: arrival and departure rates, en route congestion, airport weather conditions, and en route severe weather. This core approach as it can be seen aims to provide an improved means of operating the possible safety risks and reducing them. In other words, “the goal of the OEP is to expand capacity, decrease delays, and improve efficiency while maintaining safety and security. With reliance on the strategic support of the aviation community, the OEP is limited in scope, and only contains programs to be accomplished over a ten-year period. Programs may move faster, but the OEP sets the minimum schedule” (Federal Aviation Administration, n.d. ).
Under these considerations, the way in which the UAS is integrated in the NAS is very important because it needs to be done in a manner that would not put in danger the safety systems already in place. In this sense, “Congress directed that federal agencies accelerate the integration of UAS into the national airspace. The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 contains provisions designed to promote and facilitate the use of civilian unmanned aircraft. These included mandates for development of an integration plan that is to commence by the end of FY2015 if not sooner along with a five-year roadmap for achieving integration objectives; selection of six test sites to study UAV integration in NAS; designation of certain permanent areas in the Artic where small unmanned aircraft may operate 24 hours per day for commercial and research purposes including flights conducted beyond line of sight a simplified process for issuing authorizations for entities seeking to operate public UAS in the NAS; incrementally expanding airspace aces as technology matures and safety data and analysis become available and to facilitate public agency access to UAS test rangesl developing and implementing operational and certification requirements for public UAS by Dec 31st 2015 and an exemption from rules and regulations pertaining to the operation of unmanned aircraft for model aircraft weighting 55 points or less that are flown within visual line of sight strictly for hobby or recreation” (Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, 2013)
The measures presented above are part of the measures undertaken at the level of the U.S. government and the respective administrations that need to be taken into account in order to ensure that the integration of the UAS is done in a systematic manner and without any threats to the security and safety of the air space. This exercise is very important and needs to be done in a steady manner because of the complexity of the factors that need to be taken into account. This is not to say that the efforts are similar to creating a new safety system, but the challenges are similar. From a general and simplistic perspective, the aim is to see the necessities and the challenges the UAVs pose to the current safety system and to adjust this system in order to deal with these challenges. Changes are necessary both at the practical and the legal level and for this reason alone the coordination of institutions is a grueling process. Also, the bureaucracy that exists at all the levels of these institutions makes the process all the more difficult. However, it is important that all parties are heard and their feedback consolidated in plans of action and implementations.
In the attempt to address this issue, there is the common understanding of the fact that in order to successfully integrate the UAS in the NAS, there needs to be a concerted action that would include several perspectives. On the one hand, it is extremely important that all stakeholders be taken into account. More precisely, “Congress has tasked the FAA to lead the effort of integrating UAS into the national airspace system, and successful integration requires the involvement of several other agencies including DOD, DHS and NASA as well as industry stakeholders. FAA has taken several important steps to facilitate collaboration among the stakeholders.” (Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, 2013).
Despite the aspects mentioned above, the inter-government agencies that need to work together to create the necessary framework that would allow a smooth integration of the UAS into the NAS has failed to respect the deadlines set for 2013. In this sense, “With regard to the implementation status of the FAA reauthorization provisions, our written statement contains a chart of selected requirements and the status of FAA’s efforts to meet them. Most of the requirements must be achieved between May 2012 and December 2015. Our work shows that while FAA has efforts under- way to meet these requirements, they have completed only two of the nine requirements with completion deadlines that have passed as of this morning. Of the deadlines missed, FAA has not yet established a program for the six UAS test sites or released a comprehensive plan” (Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, 2013). Without a clear respect for the aims set out in the Operational Plan, the integration of the system is not possible with the set deadline of 2015.
The coordination efforts have been massive in recent years; however, it is not simply a matter of addressing the issues at the level of all the institutions involved, but rather to reach common agreement between institutions, individuals, and policies and to ensure that the results are applicable and have taken into account all factors of security. In such a process, it is impossible to think of all scenarios and provide resolutions and preemptive actions. It may be that, even after the work of the coordination team has been finished, certain elements will be left outside the discussion and they will need to be tackled with at a later stage. Therefore, it is important that the results of the coordination effort be applied in such a manner as to allow subsequent modifications and a certain flexibility that would allow changes and adaptations depending on the challenges that will appear once the UAVs are allowed to fly in the same space as regular aircrafts. Therefore, it can be said that this process will also have a “learn as you go” element that needs to be taken into account at the moment of finalizing the general approach to UAVs in the airspace.
Overall, in terms of the integration of unmanned aircraft systems, the situation is rather straightforward. In order to eventually allow the usage of such systems, they need to comply with the current safety systems that are applicable for all aircrafts and that, in the case of the UASs, would need further consideration and review of applicability. However, it must be stressed that the integration in the current system cannot be achieved unless all the stakeholders take on the responsibility of cooperation, discussion, and common agreements.
Aside from ensuring transportation for business or leisure, flying also can make the difference between life and death situations. The research conducted up to this point has pointed out the various means through which aviation can ensure transportation in times of war, how the need for a flying mechanism has resulted in the advancement of technology and how this technology has created a series of immense commercial gain. At the same time though, flight can also be used to reach to the most remote places and provide emergency medical assistance. The system that ensures this service is the Emergency Medical Services that is present in most countries around the world.
In the United States, the system has had a rather short history up to now. More precisely, “The evolution of the emergency medical services system in the United States accelerated rapidly between 1960 and 1973 as a result of a number of medical, historical, and social forces.” (Shah, 2006) The evolution of the medical care system in case of emergency however did not know a fast and organized pace of development particularly because it relied heavily on the state legislation rather than federal one. Therefore, the care provided by the EMS was in part unskilled. More precisely, “despite the lack of uniform federal legislation, regulations, or standards, and despite the absence of legislation, regulations, and standards in most states and cities, EMS was developing and providing care to patients. Most advances had occurred through interest by local physicians, hospitals, firefighters, government officials, or entrepreneurs. The result was a disorganized system of variable and sometimes poor quality care. In 1960, only 6 states had standard courses for rescuers, only 4 states regulated ambulance design specifications, and fewer than half of all EMS personnel had received even minimal training (e.g., American Red Cross first aid).” (Shah, 2006)
Nowadays, the system is fully functional and includes a rather well developed private network of emergency care that also includes helicopter transportation in case of need. Air Evac Lifeteam is one of the leading entities in air medical service in the United States. “Air Evac EMS, Inc., which operates Air Evac Lifeteam, is the largest independently owned and operated membership-supported air medical service in the United States, conducting its operations through 113 mutually-supporting air medical bases across 15 states. The company has established itself as the preeminent provider of air ambulance services to communities in need of advanced emergency health care and rapid medical transport” (Air Evac Lifeteam, 2014).
In order for an Army pilot to make the transition to an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) helicopter pilot, according to the Air Evac Lifeteam standards, aside from the mandatory requirements imposed by the FAA, it needs to satisfy certain conditions related to hours of flight time. An EMS pilot “transports patients from accident scenes to hospitals, and from hospital to hospital. EMS pilots are responsible for the safe operation of complex airplanes and helicopters. EMS pilots work closely with medical professions on board their aircraft. A typical flight team consists of one EMS pilot, one flight nurse and one flight paramedic. Ultimately, all things related to safety of flight are the EMS pilot’s responsibility.” (Net.com, Flight Safety, 2013)
As part of the Air Evac Lifeteam, the following are required: 2000 hours total flight time, 1500 hours helicopter time, 1000 hours helicopter pilot command time (PIC), 100 hours un-aided night flying 500 hours turbine. (Air Evac Lifeteam, 2014)
In addition to the standard FAA and the additional requirements from Air Evac Lifeteam, the EMS pilots are also responsible for increased knowledge of flight and landing in special and difficult conditions. This is largely due to the fact that Emergency medical systems often provide air services in very remote areas that are difficult to reach with the traditional means of transportation. For this reason, pilots are constantly undergoing reconnaissance missions and simulations of difficult situations they may face on the ground.
Compared to a military pilot, the prerequisites as well as the subsequent requirements are not necessarily an increase against their previous assignments in the military as the military also requires special trainings and constant improvement of flight skills. However, compared to the military piloting, the EMS pilots are faced with a more human oriented and stressful environment as they enter in contact with human suffering on a day-to-day basis. Unlike a military pilot, the EMS pilots have constant human contact with the persons they need to save and therefore more prone to subjective choices and factors.
In terms of establishing what are the more important skills needed for an EMS pilot, these cannot be necessarily prioritized as the pilot needs to be a very equilibrated individual to be able to manage the pressure and the stress coming from the idea that the life of the person rescued from a remote location lies to a certain extent on the way in which he/she manages to fly the aircraft / helicopter until the hospital destination. From this point-of-view, it is crucial for the pilot to have a good experience in flying under stressful conditions and increased self-confidence in the flying capacities. Furthermore, it must be taken into account the fact that the working hours for an EMS pilot are not regular and may require additional time spent during the night as well as night vision flying. From this point-of-view, the solicitation of the job is increased and does not compare to commercial piloting.
An important question is related to the need of the EMS pilot to have specific medical training given the fact that they are engaged in save and rescue operations. There are certain factors to be taken into account and it is important to consider that first and foremost, an EMS pilot is a pilot. Regardless of any additional trainings that the pilot may be required to undertake as part of a medical team, the main attribution (and in most cases, the only attribution) is that of flying the helicopter. Therefore, the conditions as laid out above concern the ability and performances of the individual as a pilot.
Secondly, it must be taken into account the fact that medical training is not sufficient for saving one’s life in situations as the ones that EMS is called in for. The team that arrives at a call has in its composition the paramedic and the nurse who have extensive medical knowledge and training that goes beyond any medical training that can be conducted on individuals that have no other medical background. On the other hand, it is as well important that first aid trainings be conducted, not necessarily to actually perform first aid procedures by the pilot, but rather for the pilot to be aware of certain procedures in extreme situations that may require saving the lives of its team. For example, in a situation in which, for various reasons, the helicopter crashes and both the paramedic and the nurse are not in the capacity to ensure first aid maneuvers but the pilot is, a previous training in this respect can make the difference between life and death for the members of the team. From this point-of-view, the training can be seen as a precautionary measure and a means to increase the survival chances in case of extreme conditions.
On the other hand, though, there are certain cases in which pilots with previous medical training are refused employment specifically because of their medical knowledge (RotorCraft, 2008). This is due to the fact that it is considered a possible cause of problems caused by eventual intervention from the side of the pilot. This may result in putting at danger the lives of those involved if the intervention is not done properly. A pilot that is active in the EMS business states “As a pilot, there is no need whatsoever for any medical certification or training. Some operators refuse to hire pilots with medical training, because it can cause problems. I get no information on patient condition, other than what I hear on the intercom, and from the initial call, which is for the med crew to get some preparation. I don’t care, and don’t really want to know, about the patient’s medical condition. I can’t do anything for them anyway – I fly the helicopter, and the med crew takes care of them. I think your conversations had some misunderstanding. Everyone on the helicopter is a nurse, a medic, or a pilot. Medical training is only for the med crews.” (RotorCraft, 2008) Therefore, from this point-of-view, it is important to keep the pilot in the range of its own activity and leave the medical staff perform their duty.
Finally, an important aspect to point out is the fact that EMS pilots are subject to the same rules and regulations as regular pilots and are checked as per FAA regulations once every six months against the Part 135 VFR and IRF. Therefore, the motivation and decision to have a career change from a military pilot to an EMS pilot is not related to any ease of the process, but rather it usually comes from the satisfaction of saving lives in the process.
Overall, the roles aviation has played along the history have been many. On the one hand, it provided a means of advancement of technology, a new way of transportation, an improvement in leisure time and above all, a new means of saving lives in critical situations. Despite the fact that there have been numerous accounts in which human factors have led to loss of lives, aviation represents an example of mix between state of the art technology and human dedication. Human factors that lead to accidents are inevitable, yet with the necessary training and improved recommendations, such human factors can reduce their toll on piloting and aircraft maintenance.
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Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. (2014). Ryan NYP “Spirit of St. Louis,” Charles A. Lindbergh. Retrieved from http://airandspace.si.edu/collections/artifact.cfm?id=A19280021000
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