Air Methods Corp. facing lawsuit over alleged helicopter safety issue

The lawsuit claims an Air Methods helicopter went on 51 flights after the company was notified by the FAA that the copter's pitot tubes were "severely corroded"

By Kieran Nicholson
The Denver Post

ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. — A federal civil lawsuit was filed Monday against Air Methods Corp. of Greenwood Village alleging violations of safety standards in connection to an emergency-services helicopter.

The complaint, filed by the U.S. Attorney, District of Colorado, claims that an Air Methods helicopter, in Tampa, Fla., went on 51 flights after the company was notified by the Federal Aviation Administration that the helicopter’s pitot tubes — crucial in determining airspeed — were “severely corroded,” according to a news release.

Air Methods operates air-ambulance helicopters across the country.

The complaint alleges that on Nov. 4, 2014, an FAA aviation safety inspector identified the problem and that the helicopter “continued to operate” in violation of federal regulations.

“If a pitot tube is not functioning properly, it can cause the airspeed reflected on a helicopter’s instruments to vary significantly from the actual airspeed, which can present serious safety concerns,” the release said.

Air Methods was aware of the hazards, according to the complaint, which seeks to recover civil penalties from the Colorado company.

“When a federal safety inspector notifies an air-ambulance company that one of its helicopters has a potential safety issue, the company must address that issue,” U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn said in the release. “Air Methods kept the helicopter in the air despite being warned about the corroded pitot tubes, and we intend to hold the company accountable for its actions.”

Founded in 1980, Air Methods has a workforce of more than 4,500 people with more than 300 bases serving 48 states, according to its website.

“Air Methods vigorously disputes the allegations contained in the complaint but cannot provide further comment as the litigation is pending,” the company said Monday.


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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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