Owner Says He Hopes To Restore Flights By Weekend
In the wake of a fatal
accident earlier this month, the Federal Aviation Administration
has asked Hawaii Air Ambulance to keep its medical transport planes
on the ground until inspections of its maintenance records and
operations have been completed, company president and CEO Andrew
Kluger said Wednesday.
Hawaii Air Ambulance halted operations after the March 8
accident, in which three crew members were lost after one of the
company's Cessna 414 Chancellors (file photo of type, below
right) went down on approach to land at Kaluhui Airport. The
company has been conducting its own inspection, Kluger said, in
addition to the FAA probe.
As Aero-News reported earlier this
month, the accident was the second fatal mishap for
the company in just over two years -- which "raised a red flag,"
said FAA spokesman Mike Fergus.
Fergus told the Honolulu Advertiser the agency is checking the
company's records... but that the FAA has not told the air
ambulance operator that it couldn't fly.
"They have not been told by us that they cannot operate," Fergus
said. Were the company to begin flying again, however, Fergus said
"we're going to wonder why, after you thought you had to ground
yourself, why are you doing it now."
The FAA's inspection has uncovered "issues and concerns," Fergus
said, although he wouldn't say what those matters involved except
to say the issues were with "operations and administrative
Kluger told the Advertiser the only issue he was aware of
concerned the company's use of someone other than pilots to handle
flight planning, and that the company is considering the FAA's
While two fatal accidents in the past two years is "terribly,
terribly tragic," Kluger said it should be weighed against the more
than 37,000 medical missions the company has conducted in the past
27 years. The company employs about 60 pilots, physicians, flight
nurses, and support personnel, and has a fleet of three Cessna
In Hawaii Air
Ambulance's absence, the US Coast Guard has been flying patients
from neighboring islands to Oahu, under an agreement with the state
Department of Health. So far, that arrangement hasn't stretched the
agency's resources too thin... although all parties are eager to
see a private entity resume the flights.
The Health Department is not seeking another private provider of
aeromedical services, said Dr. Linda Rosen, deputy director of the
state Department of Health and acting chief of the Emergency
Medical Services Branch. Several companies have expressed interest
in taking over the contract.
"We're just trying to meet the need right now and are hoping
Hawaii Air Ambulance will be flying soon," Rosen said.
Meanwhile, Fergus said the FAA will continue its look into the
company's records -- and should that turn up something suspect, the
agency will launch a more detailed investigation.
"We don't have suspicions about any one thing. We just want to
get ahead of it and increase our vigilance," he said.