Neguse and Perlmutter push for passage of helicopter fuel safety legislation

Push comes on the 5 year anniversary of Frisco Flight for Life crash,

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Washington, D.C.-, July 2, 2020 | comments

On the five year anniversary of the Flight for Life helicopter crash that took the life of Patrick Mahany and severely injured the two flight nurses on board in Frisco, Colorado, Congressman Joe Neguse (CO-02), alongside Congressman Ed Perlmutter (CO-07), is pushing for Congress to take up the Safe Helicopters Now Act, legislation introduced by the pair to provide helicopter operators with a tax credit for retrofitting existing emergency medical helicopters with safer fuel systems. Congressman Neguse and Congressman Perlmutter filed an amendment to include the legislative text for their bill in the Moving Forward Act, an infrastructure package which passed the House this week.

“Emergency helicopters and the people who pilot them are on the front lines of some of the toughest times for Americans,” said Congressman Joe Neguse. “I introduced this bill to ensure that emergency workers in Colorado and across the country can safely accomplish the tremendous tasks set before them and feel secure while keeping the rest of us safe. On the 5th anniversary of Patrick’s death it’s critical that Congress pass this legislation to protect first responders and emergency workers and ensure that nothing like the accident that took Patrick’s life ever happens again.”

“The 2015 Flight for Life crash costing the life of Patrick Mahany was a horrific accident which can never be allowed to happen again. I’m glad we’ve made progress to ensure all newly manufactured helicopters meet today’s fuel system safety standards, but there’s more work to be done to ensure existing helicopters are also equipped with safer fuel systems,” said Congressman Ed Perlmutter. “I will continue pushing legislation so all emergency medical and civilian helicopters can have upgraded fuel safety systems to save lives and prevent needless injury.”

“Five years ago, an EMS helicopter piloted by my beloved husband, Patrick Mahany, lost its hydraulics, careened out of control on take-off and crash landed in the back-parking lot of the hospital. This almost brand-new helicopter was not equipped with a crash-resistant fuel system and burst into flames with 3 seconds.  It was part of a FAA allowed regulatory loophole that had been in place for more than 20 years,” said Karen Mahany. “Passage of the tax-credit legislation would provide incentivization to retrofit the thousands upon thousands of existing helicopters that continue to carry EMS flight crews and their patients.  Congress now has become the protectors of EMS helicopter crews and is ensuring that those flight crews can go home at the end of their long shift.  I thank you in advance from the bottom of my heart.”

“Passage of The Safe Helicopters Now Act, the first of its kind and groundbreaking safety legislation for the aviation industry, will undoubtedly lessen the cost burden for operators in the long overdue retrofitting of their legacy rotorcraft with crash resistant fuel systems and will give the occupants the fighting chance at survival that they deserve,” said Dave Repsher, one of the flight nurses injured during the crash.

The Safe Helicopters Now Act was written with help from Karen Mahany, the widow of Flight for Life pilot Patrick Mahany, who was killed in a the helicopter crash, and Dave Repsher, a flight nurse onboard who suffered burns on 90 percent of his body during the crash.

July 3rd marks the five year anniversary of the crash that resulted in the fire that claimed Mahany’s life, and severely injured the two flight nurses on board, Dave Repsher and Matt Bowe. The 2015 Flight for Life crash in Frisco led to a recommendation from the National Transportation Security Board (NTSB) to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that crash-resistant fuel systems be a requirement for all civil rotorcrafts.

The 2018 FAA Reauthorization included Rep. Perlmutter’s legislation requiring all newly manufactured helicopters to have safer fuel systems installed. This provision went into effect April 5, 2020, resulting in all newly manufactured helicopters in the U.S. now having these safer fuel systems. However, this did not apply to helicopters which are currently in existence, leaving many helicopters still operating without upgraded fuel systems.

Content originally published by Trail Gazette on July 2, 2020.
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