Shaken up by air-ambulance mishap, Govt to frame new safety regulations soon

Debabrata Das Mumbai | Updated on June 02, 2011 Published on June 02, 2011

Fatal d(r)ive: Onlookers gather around the wreckage of a chartered medical ambulance aircraft, while team members of the Director General of Civil Aviation inspect the site in Faridabad last Thursday. - Photo: Shanker Chakravarty   -  The Hindu

With an air-ambulance ending up taking lives instead of saving, the Government has woken up to the crying need for safety guidelines for such services.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has decided to act by clearing the ambiguity in regulations, besides formulating regulations specifically for air-ambulances.

“At present, there is some confusion in the civil aviation requirements regarding air-ambulances. We will be coming out with a circular shortly, may be in the next couple of weeks, to clear the confusion,” a senior DGCA official told Business Line.

There are no separate requirements for air-ambulances, and they follow the regulations framed out for non-scheduled air-transport services. According to, clause 2.3 of the requirements, medical-evacuation flights on domestic routes are banned from using a single-engine aircraft. However, clause 9.2 states that a single-engine aircraft can be used to operate medical charters to international destinations.

No clear rules

“Single-engine aircraft[s] shouldn't be used for medical operations at an altitude of more than 11,000 ft. They are not equipped with cockpit voice recorders and flight data recorder[s].

As of now, there are no aircraft[s] dedicated for medical evacuations in the country. This needs to change,” said the DGCA official.

Last week, a Pilatus PC-12 aircraft being used as an air-ambulance had crashed in Faridabad killing 10.

The DGCA official added that operators use combo aircrafts, wherein the operators remove the seats and place a stretcher along with oxygen tanks.

“Hospitals still insist on calling these air-ambulances because it has a stretcher, place for two doctors, an attendant and an oxygen tank. But ideally, the preferred air-ambulance aircraft around the world is the Beechcraft B-200, which has a backdoor for sliding in the stretcher,” said the official.

According to data on non-scheduled operators on the DGCA's Web site, only one B-200 has been registered and three more Beechcraft aircraft in the B-200 class are registered. The aircraft are owned by Bharat Hotels, Kirloskar Oil Engines and Kestrel Aviation Pvt Ltd.

“In the long term, we do plan to formulate and enforce regulations regarding the type of aircraft air-ambulances can use. Medical evacuation by air is not a simple operation, and air-ambulance aircraft have to dedicate services for medical purposes only,” the official said.

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Published on June 02, 2011
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