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Close Call...


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This came across my desk today... Thought it would be an interesting read for everyone here:




Program: PennSTAR Flight Team

3400 Spruce Street

Phila, PA 19104


Type: S-76

Operator/Vendor: Other Service


Weather: Clear. Not a factor


Team: No injuries reported. Patient on board.



At approximately 2300 hours, PennCOMM was notified via telephone by

another flight programs dispatch center that one of their aircraft (S-76)

was inbound with an interfacility patient to the University of

Pennsylvania Medical Center helipad (12th floor, rooftop pad), with

an approximate ETA of five (5) minutes. The inbound aircrafts

communication center was immediately informed that the helipad was

occupied by a PennSTAR aircraft (BK-117) which had just completed a mission,

and that the inbound aircraft would need to wait for the PennSTAR

aircraft to depart before landing. The PennSTAR crew immediately

proceeded to the aircraft and began preflight procedures. Perimeter

helipad lighting and rotating beacons were operational however flood

lighting on the pad was turned-off to preserve night vision for the

departing aircraft crew.


The flight nurse, who was standing fire-watch at the 2 O'clock

position, noticed the inbound aircraft's landing lights approaching

over the city and assumed the aircraft would maintain a safe distance

away. The PennSTAR pilot had completed #1 engine start-up, was

beginning the engine start cycle on the 2nd engine and had all

strobes and anti-collision lights illuminated. The flight nurse

noticed the inbound aircraft approaching, and then crossing the plan

of the helipad. The flight nurse attempted to signal the incomming

aircraft first by waiving arms, then by shining a flashlight into the

cockpit of the approaching aircraft. Simultaneously, the PennSTAR

Communication Technicians attempted radio contact - without success -

with the aircraft on both the PennSTAR and Philadelphia aviation radio

frequencies and by rapidly flashing the perimeter helipad lighting.

The inbound aircraft was directly overhead of the PennSTAR aircraft

when they initiated a go-around departure. Post incident mechanical

inspection revealed no damage to the PennSTAR aircraft.


Additional Info:

A debriefing of this incident was conducted with the

aviation management of both services and several fundamental

operational mandates were reinforced. The co-pilot of the inbound

aircraft indicated that the reflective tape on the flight nurse's

helmet was the first indication of a problem and was what prompted

the go-around. This incident reveals several operational


• The absolute necessity of establishing radio contact with the

receiving facility. No radio contact was made to PennCOMM from the

in-bound aircraft.

• The necessity of direct aircraft communications.

• The importance of visually confirming a clear pad and establishing

visual references, especially at night, prior to landing.

• The importance of reflective markings on uniforms/helmets.

• The importance of having a crew-member outside the aircraft during



The quick, decisive actions of the PennSTAR Flight Nurse and

Communication Technicians were instrumental in averting a disaster.


Source: Bob Higgins, Program Director-PennSTAR Flight Team

Edited by tvman345
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