OSHA Orders Air Methods To Reinstate Whistleblower Pilot

Pilot refused medevac flight because of faulty ELT.

Air Methods

Air Methods

The U.S. Department of Labor says this helicopter,
an Airbus EC130B4, N47HN, operated by Air Methods,
was the one involved in the 2013 pilot firing.
Photo: Flight Aware

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.

The agency said that Air Methods fired the pilot days later, on Aug. 5, 2013, in retaliation for the decision, which the regulators deemed a violation of a federal whistleblower law. The judgment requires Air Methods to rehire the pilot, and pay back wages in excess of $158,000, along with $8,500 in damages.

In the press release, OSHA regional administrator in Chicago Nick Walters said, "Pilots should never have to choose between the safety of themselves and their passengers, and their job. Whistleblower protections are critical to keeping workplaces safe. Disciplining an employee for following safety procedures is illegal and puts everyone at risk."

The decision is likely to be enthusiastically greeted by commercial pilots who have been required by their employers to fly aircraft with known safety issues. United Airlines recently fired a cabin crew that refused to fly an airplane with graffiti on its tail that the crew saw as threatening. Other observers will likely be concerned over OSHA's reach into what seems essentially an aviation issue better handled by the FAA.

An Air Methods spokesman said the company could not comment on ongoing litigation.

Correction: An earlier version of this story included an incorrect photo of another helicopter operated by a different provider not involved in this case.

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