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OSHA Orders Air Methods to Reinstate Whistleblower Pilot

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In a decision that is sure to evoke emotional responses from observers on all sides of the political and aviation spectrum, OSHA announced in a press release that it has reinstated a pilot who refused to fly a medevac flight for his employer, Air Methods, because the helicopter's ELT was faulty. (www.flyingmag.com) More...

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Moviela
Ric Wernicke 10
Time and time again managers think they can use pretext to retaliate against employees that refuse to work when they do not feel safe. Management usually gets away with it. In this case they get a wrist slap. If they return the pilot to duty, management will make life miserable for him.

When the Congress decides the public policy will be better served by meaningful punishment, including jail for miscreants who pressure workers into unsafe conditions, you won't read about whistleblower cases because companies will not take a chance on being caught.
preacher1
preacher1 5
Regardless of the ELT requirement, this pilot had better find him another workplace. If he is put back to work, his life will be miserable, plus, carrying the whistleblower label with him, he better hope for a huge chunk of money, as it will be rough finding a job. Not how it ought to be but that is how it is.
jkudlick
Sure, you're "protected" against reprisal for being a whistleblower, but try proving that anything apart from an official personnel action is reprisal...

Since all this pilot got was back pay and less than $10k in damages, he's not likely to be able to afford retirement any time soon.
preacher1
preacher1 3
Well, at $158,000 his back pay is not slouchy but being off all this time and the future, it won't last forever, plus, he hasn't gotten it yet. The company appealed I think.
joelwiley
joel wiley 1
More detail in OSHA press release:
http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/osha/OSHA20142294.htm
linbb
linbb 1
Old news was posted before.
jkudlick
I am neither a pilot nor a lawyer, so my expertise in this area is almost nil. That said, after a little research it appears to me that this pilot shouldn't have had a leg to stand on. 14 CFR 91.207 requires ELTs for certain classes of airplanes, and an airplane is defined in 14 CFR 1.1 as "an engine-driven fixed-wing aircraft heavier than air, that is supported in flight by the dynamic reaction of the air against its wings." I haven't yet found any requirement to have an ELT in any rotary-wing aircraft, though they are certainly not prohibited. Since an ELT is not a required piece of equipment in a helicopter, I fail to see how the company could be culpable for an inoperative piece of optional equipment.

Of course, this will probably play out in court over the next few years where real lawyers will end up making boatloads of money.
joelwiley
joel wiley 2
If I remember correctly, the NTSB recently ruled in the Pirker case that a UAV falls within the definition of 'aircraft'. The UAV in question was a rotary wing vehicle.
Regardless, at the end of the day, the pilot may have troubles finding a flying job under the 'no good deed goes unpunished' clause
jkudlick
"Aircraft" is broadly defined as "a device that is used or intended to be used for flight in the air" and is then broken down into categories of aircraft, two of which are airplanes and helicopters. Since 91.207 specifically states airplanes, that means ELTs are not required for helicopters.

You are correct that this pilot's flying days may be numbered now.
pclifton
It's still possible for the ELT to be a required piece of equipment. 91.213 begins with "Except as provided in paragraph (d) of this section, no person may take off an aircraft with inoperative instruments or equipment installed unless the following conditions are met:"

If it was decided that the pilot was protected as a whistleblower, then it seems to follow that flying without the ELT would have been unlawful. Of course, that assumes that the OSHA decision was correct...
jkudlick
91.213(d) goes into the exemptions, and after going through the various rules, one keeps circling back to 91.207 which refers to "airplanes." For example, 91.205 lists equipment required for VFR (day), including an ELT if required by 91.207. The only thing I can see in the pilot's favor at this point is the requirement under 91.213(d)(4), "A determination is made by a pilot, who is certificated and appropriately rated under part 61 of this chapter, or by a person, who is certificated and appropriately rated to perform maintenance on the aircraft, that the inoperative instrument or equipment does not constitute a hazard to the aircraft." However, if the mechanic already determined that the inoperative ELT does not constitute a hazard (which I doubt it does since it does not affect the airworthiness of the aircraft), then the pilot's argument is moot.

I've just found that 14 CFR 135.168 (not yet in the CFR, but published in the Federal Register on 21 February 2014) will require ELTs on all helicopters flying "beyond autorotational distance from the shoreline" beginning on April 24, 2017. Presuming that most air ambulances could at some point fly over the water, I believe that will require air ambulances to carry them at that point.
linbb
linbb 1
The problem I see here is OSHA is involved in something they have no control over the operational aspects of and are assuming the role partially the FAA has in determining flight standards. Its like another case now in court about the ability of local government's to dictate flight standards in relation to airspace during operation of an AC.
Just my take on what is going on, in any event he will be terminated one way or another.
744pnf
744pnf 1
A helicopters rotors are wings. And aviation companies have what is known as an M.E.L.list which could have listed an ELT in this case.
MEL, Minimum Equipment List.
jkudlick
Technically, the rotors aren't wings - the blades are. Regardless, the definition explicitly states "fixed-wing aircraft," thus eliminating all forms of rotary-wing aircraft.
chalet
chalet -1
Granted ELTs are mandatory but what about the patient(s) waiting to be airlifted to the nearest hospital and save their lives........ What comes first. Silly pilot indeed.
ltcjra
ltcjra 0
(Duplicate Squawk Submitted)

OSHA orders pilot to be reinstated after being illegally fired for refusing to fly medical transport helicopter

OSHA found that Air Methods fired the pilot in retaliation for his refusal to fly a helicopter with an emergency locator transmitter that was not functioning properly on July 30, 2013.

http://www.verticalmag.com/news/article/30083

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