Background: Annually, there are about 80,000 helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) missions for patients in Germany. In comparison to the commercial transport of passengers, the risk of aviation crashes increases during rescue operations. The aim of this study was to evaluate helicopter crashes related to HEMS in Germany within a 6-year period (1999-2004) and to analyze contributing factors.
Methods: Flight crashes were identified in the annually published flight crash reports of the Federal Agency for Flight Accident Investigation. Data were completed by telephone interview of the operators and by additional internet information. For statistical analysis, Fisher's exact test was used. A p < 0.05 was considered significant.
Results: Twenty-four helicopter crashes (n = 22 during day, n = 2 at night) of German HEMS were identified within the 6 years. Three crashes were fatal, another two caused nonfatal injuries. Seven persons were killed, four injured severely and four slightly. Patients were not hurt within the analyzed period. The crash rate per 10,000 missions sank significantly (p < 0.05), whereas no reduction was found per 100,000 flight hours (not significant) compared with previously published data. Fifty-four percent (n = 13) of all crashes were reported during approach and landing. Seventeen percent (n = 4) of the crashes occurred during ground run and 29% (n = 7) during the remaining flight phases (takeoff and cruise flight).
Conclusions: In comparison to previous data a significantly lower crash rate per 10,000 missions was found. With the analysis of the same data per 100,000 flying hours, this trend was not evident. The majority of crashes occurred during the day and landings.