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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Air Medical Transport Association Holds 31st Convention

By Ernie Stephens, Editor-at-Large

Attendees at AMTC 2011 inspect the cabin of a Bell 429 belonging to the San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington, N.M. Other air medical transport aircraft on display included an AgustaWestland GrandNew, Eurocopter EC130 and MD902. Photos by Ernie Stephens

Saint Louis, Mo. was the site of the Association of the Air Medical Services’ (AAMS) 31st annual Air Medical Transport Conference, which was held October 16-19. AAMS is the industry organization for air medical and critical care transport professionals, which includes pilots, flight nurses, flight paramedics, physicians, and operation support personnel.

Known primarily as AMTC, the event drew a total of 2,231 air medical professionals from across North America for workshops, seminars, displays and a variety of social events. Industry leaders, from aircraft manufacturers to medical equipment vendors, were represented in the America’s Center Convention Complex exhibit hall. A total of nine fully-equipped rotorcraft from AgustaWestland, Eurocopter, Bell and MD Helicopters were on static display for inspection by all in attendance, as well as 162 vendors of medical equipment, flight apparel, and thousands of other industry-related products.

As with all previous AMTC gatherings, a major focus of conversation and training was in the area of air mishap prevention—a direct result of the number of fatal accidents that plague the air medical industry. NTSB and FAA have been considering sweeping regulations to reduce those numbers, including requiring operators to install the latest on-board technology designed to curb obstacle collisions and controlled flight into terrain.

This MD902 in operated with Allegheny General Hospital LifeFlight and Metro Aviation is one of six helicopters in the fleet.

While all operators agree that fatalities in the industry need to be reduced, smaller outfits fear the cost of such upgrades will drive them out of business. But in spite of those fears and the downturn in the economy, this year’s conference saw more deliveries and orders for new air medical helicopters—26 American Eurocopters alone—than it has in recent years. Some attribute the bump in new aircraft sales to a need to immediately replace aging aircraft after years of trying to wait out a sluggish economy. Others speculate that operators simply want to get out in front of any potentially forthcoming FAA requirements by purchasing new ships with all of the latest safety-related equipment already onboard. Some of that equipment includes HTAWS, TCAS, NVGs and Cobham’s new HeliSAS system, the first two-axis autopilot developed specifically for light turbine helicopters. AMTC 2012 is scheduled for October 22-24 in Seattle, Wash.

To see videos of some the aircraft on display at AMTC 2011, go to www.rotorandwing.com

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