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Posted 4 years 246 days ago ago by Randy Mains

I received the following email from a HEMS pilot who responded to my article entitled “Just Say NO” that appeared in the March/April 2019 edition of Rotorcraft Pro.  His observation is worth noting.  Here is what he wrote:

Mr. Mains:

Your article entitled “Just Say No!” with regards to the recent Survival Flight accident in Ohio was spot on! As a retired Army Aviator and longtime HEMS pilot (currently working and flying in Northeast Ohio), the recent accident and fatalities seems to have hit a theme all too familiar in the HEMS industry and I don’t mean “pressure to fly” but more so the thought that every HEMS flight undertaken is a “mission”. I find more times than not this thought process is the underlying “pressure” to fly, especially with less experienced crews (pilots, medical providers, and managerial staff notwithstanding) but, in my view, seems to be more pronounced with former Military aviators who probably already have a high sense of “mission completion” as well as with less experienced civil tour pilots who again may possess a strong work completion ethic.

I will not attempt to second guess what was the culture of this particular program (although the program is well known to us and has been discussed in house ad nauseum) but it appears from this accident as well as other “events” prior to the fatal accident in question I and others are privy to that there was a high sense of “missionitis”, especially within this program’s operational control system and the culture it permeated. 

The term “mission” and all that it entails should be reserved for the Military, Police, Fire, Rescue, and other dedicated such organizations and should be highly discouraged from the HEMS vocabulary. A patient in most cases always has the option to be transported by ground which may not be the best choice due to time and provider mix but it is an option nonetheless.  A medical flight request should just be referred to as a transport. Period! End of statement! 

Many years ago, as a new HEMS pilot fresh out of the Army I was equipped with a very high sense of “mission accomplishment”.  That is, until a seasoned and highly respected senior pilot in the company took me aside and gave me some excellent advice.  He told me this:  “You were hired not because you have the ability to say ‘yes’, but because you have the ability to say ‘NO’.” No truer words have ever been spoken! 

Keep up the good work!

Randy Mains is an author, public speaker, and a CRM/AMRM consultant who works in the helicopter industry after a long career of aviation adventure. He currently serves as chief CRM/AMRM instructor for Oregon Aero. He may be contacted at [email protected].