VI.A. Part 121 Discussion
VI.A.1. Subpart E - Approval of Routes: Domestic and Flag Air
Section 121.97 requires each domestic and flag operator to show
that each route it submits for approval has enough airports that are
properly equipped and adequate for the proposed operation. The
operator must also have an approved system to disseminate this
information to appropriate personnel. Although part 135 has similar
requirements, part 121 requires more information.
Section 121.99 requires each domestic and flag operator to have a
two-way air/ground communication system between each airplane and the
appropriate air traffic control facility, along the entire route. In
the 48 contiguous States and the District of Columbia, the
communications system between each airplane and the dispatch center
must be independent of any system operated by the United States. This
would be a new requirement for the affected certificate holders.
Section 121.101 requires each domestic and flag operator to show
that enough weather reporting facilities are available along each
route to ensure weather reports and forecasts necessary for the
operation. For operations within the 48 contiguous States and the
District of Columbia, these reports must be prepared by the National
Weather Service. For other areas, a system must be approved by the
Administrator. Section 135.213 has similar requirements, except that
the pilot in command is allowed to use various other sources,
including his own weather assessment, for VFR operations. This
section also requires reports of adverse weather phenomena. The FAA
proposed that affected certificate holders comply with part 121.
Section 121.107 requires each domestic and flag operator to have
enough dispatch centers, adequate for the intended operation. This
would be a new requirement for affected certificate holders, as
discussed in Section V.F., Dispatch System.
Comments: ALPA comments that the upgrade to part 121 represents
a major improvement over part 135. ALPA also comments that Subparts E
and F should be upgraded to require that each pilot have a set of
approach and navigation charts rather than having to share a set.
ALPA provides supportive information, such as an NTSB recommendation
(A-95-35) for a similar requirement.
Several comments were received on the enroute radio communication
requirements of § 121.99. ASA and RAA question the need for airline
provided enroute radio communication capability for short-haul flights
and request that the requirement be reconsidered. According to these
commenters, the average enroute times for affected certificate holders
is less than an hour. For such short flights there is little time
during the enroute portion of a flight for company communication. The
cost of installing company communications would be high and safety
would not be diminished without company communication since the crew
can be contacted through Air Traffic Control.
AACA points out that this would be a new requirement for affected
commuters. Intrastate Alaskan operations now conducted under flag
operations rules will be conducted under domestic rules and would be
required to comply with the independent communications systems
requirements. Because of low altitudes, VFR flight operations, and
the lack of Remote Communications Outlet at many locations,
maintaining communications will require construction of a large
communications infrastructure. When operators in Alaska use flag
rules, AACA interprets § 121.99 to not require the communications
system be independent of any system operated by the United States.
FAA Response: The ALPA suggestion on requiring that each pilot
have a separate set of navigation and approach charts is beyond the
scope of this rulemaking; however, the FAA is planning to initiate a
separate rulemaking on the issue.
Section 121.99 requires each domestic and flag air carrier to
have a two-way radio communication system that is independent of any
system operated by the United States. FAA flight service stations and
air traffic control facilities that are currently providing radio
communication service for certificate holders are used for the control
of aircraft and were never intended to be used by individual
certificate holders to relay information that is the certificate
holder's responsibility, such as scheduling changes or weather
information. Hence, an additional expense would be incurred by
certificate holders required to contract for communication services
through commercial services. However, it is believed that most part
135 certificate holders already have facilities and communications
equipment that satisfy the dispatch requirements under part 121.
The FAA believes that there is a need for a two-way air-ground
radio communication system that will ensure reliable and
rapid communications over the entire route between each airplane and
the appropriate dispatch office and between each airplane and the
appropriate air traffic control unit. The need to show that each
operator has a two-way radio system is not new. However, the
requirement to have an independent system is new for operations of
affected commuters and intrastate Alaska and Hawaii operations
previously conducted under flag operations rules. While no
commenters focus on § 121.97 or § 121.117, the FAA points out under §§
121.97(b)(4)(i) and 121.117(b)(4)(i) affected operators will be
required to comply with airport data requirements which include
applicable performance requirements of Subpart I. For affected
airplanes these performance requirements will be found in new appendix
K to part 121 as referenced in subpart I.