Air ambulance pilot refused to fly in dangerous conditions; feds say company retaliated

Metro Aviation was ordered to reinstate the Utah pilot and to pay $188,000 in back wages and damages following an OSHA investigation

Julia Marnin
The Charlotte Observer

SHREVEPORT, La. — When a pilot refused to fly twice over worries about dangerous conditions, the Louisiana-based helicopter ambulance service they worked for “retaliated,” federal labor officials say.

Two weeks after the pilot’s refusals, the Department of Labor says Metro Aviation LLC, in Shreveport, “forced them to resign, retire or be involuntarily separated from the company” in August 2021, according to an Aug. 9 news release.

Now the company, which has roughly 140 aircraft serving hospitals in more than 25 states, must pay the Utah pilot $188,000 in back pay and damages following an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the release says.

The Labor Department has also ordered Metro Aviation to reinstate the pilot, who would not fly on the two occasions due to limited visibility, after OSHA found that the company violated federal law by forcing them out of their job, according to the agency.

The Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century protects the pilot and others who refuse to take on assignments when they “reasonably” believe it would “violate aviation safety regulations,” the release says.

McClatchy News contacted the company for comment on Aug. 11 and was awaiting a response.

“Employees must freely exercise their legal rights regarding workplace safety with no fear of retaliation by their employer,” OSHA’s Denver administrator Jennifer S. Rous said in a statement.

Metro Aviation and the pilot have 30 days to file any objections or ask for a hearing after receiving the Labor Department’s orders, according to the release.

The company employs a number of pilots to take on medical air transport operations across the U.S., according to its website.


©2022 The Charlotte Observer

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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