A federal report has found the accident rate of medical helicopters twice that of other non-scheduled chopper flights, but an industry spokesman told the Associated Press that the safety record was getting better.
"The record was greatly improved in 1987," said Frank Jensen Jr., president of Helicopter Assn. International, which met during the weekend at the Anaheim Convention Center.
The report by the National Transportation Safety Board, made available at the convention, said medical helicopters had twice as many accidents as other non-scheduled flights between 1980 and 1985 and that the fatal accident rate was 3 1/2 times higher.
Between 1972 and 1986, the accident rate was 15.4 per 100,000 patient transports, industry officials said. But in 1987, the rate dipped to 4.8 per 100,000, the lowest in a decade, they said.
The NTSB study said the high accident rate might be because "helicopters routinely operate in poor weather and at night, land and take off from unimproved landing areas, and depart on missions with little advance notice."
The majority of the accidents involved human error, and weather was a leading factor in fatal accidents, the report said.