VI.A.14. Subpart U - Dispatching and Flight Release Rules

Flight release authority. Section 121.597, which applies to

supplemental operations, requires a flight release signed by the pilot

in command when the pilot and the person authorized by the certificate

holder to exercise operational control believe that the flight can be

made safely. Under part 135 releases are not required for either

scheduled or on-demand flights. The FAA proposed requiring compliance

with part 121. This requirement would apply to affected commuter

airplanes when those airplanes are used in nonscheduled service with a

passenger-seating configuration of 10 or more. No comments were

received on this issue and the final rule is adopted as proposed.

Dispatch or flight release under VFR. Section 121.611 states

that no person may dispatch or release an airplane for VFR operation

unless the ceiling and visibility en route, as indicated by available

weather reports or forecasts, are and will remain at or above

applicable VFR minimums until the airplane arrives at the airport.

Comments: One commenter states that VFR is certainly an

acceptable standard for sightseeing operations or for smaller

carriers. Scenic Air states that airplanes typically used in the tour

business can only operate day VFR. Grand Canyon Airways said 99

percent of its flights are VFR.

An individual states that the proposal on § 121.611 concerning

VFR dispatch is unclear as to whether part 135 certificate holders

will be required to comply. The commenter believes they should be

covered by § 121.611 because it is the safe way and costs nothing.

FAA Response: In the final rule, affected commuters are required

to comply with § 121.611. The FAA will develop additional operations

specifications paragraphs and guidance for VFR tour operations, remote

area operations (e.g. Samoa, Alaska) or other operations that are not

capable of being conducted under IFR because they have no airways, IFR

approaches, navaids, etc.

Alternate airport for departure. Section 121.617(a) requires an

alternate departure airport during certain weather conditions and

specifies that for aircraft having two engines the alternate airport

must be not more than one hour from the departure airport at normal

cruising speed in still air with one engine inoperative. Under the

proposed rule, affected commuters would have to comply with the

requirement. This requirement was not specifically discussed in the

proposed rule.

Comments: Fairchild Aircraft comments that this requirement

requires single-engine cruising speed data that are unlikely to be

included in the FAA-approved airplane flight manual of 10-19

passengers airplanes. Comparable § 135.217 requires an alternate

airport "within 1 hour's flying time (at normal cruising speed in

still air." The commenter requests that the part 135 wording be

inserted in the part 121 section.

FAA Response: Fairchild is correct, but the FAA is retaining the

requirement and it will be necessary for affected commuters to work

with airplane manufacturers to develop appropriate data for normal

one-engine inoperative cruising speed for the airplane flight manual

within 15 months. (See also Section VI.A.4 Airplane limitations: Type

of route for discussion of one engine inoperative data).

Operations in icing conditions. No comments were received on

this proposal and the final rule is adopted as proposed. (See also

VI.A.7. Equipment for operations in icing conditions).

Fuel reserves. Sections 121.639, 121.641, 121.643, and 121.645

contain fuel reserve requirements based on the type of operation to be

conducted. These fuel reserve requirements do not distinguish between

VFR and IFR operations. Section 121.639 requires 45 minutes of fuel

reserve for domestic air carriers and for certain other air carrier


Section 135.209 requires 30 minutes of fuel reserve for day VFR

conditions and 45 minutes for night VFR conditions. Section 135.223

requires 45 minutes for IFR conditions.

The FAA proposed to require affected commuters to comply with the

fuel reserve requirements of part 121.

Comments: Fairchild Aircraft comments that the FAA failed to take

into consideration that § 121.639 requires fuel to fly to an alternate

airport regardless of conditions, and finds that the proposed rule

would have a detrimental impact economically, with no related gain in

safety. Fairchild suggests that the FAA adopt § 135.209, which

requires a 30-minute reserve for airplanes with fewer than 31 seats.

Samoa Air comments that the proposal would require a 45-minute reserve

for flights that average 30 minutes and is therefore unnecessary.

Raytheon adds that its aircraft would have to give up one of 19

passengers to carry the additional fuel. Raytheon argues that smaller

airplanes make shorter flights than big airliners, can operate to and

from shorter runways, and are closer to an alternate airport.

Therefore, the 10-19 seat airplane should be exempt from this

requirement. Commuter Air Transport comments that all of its current

route analysis is done on a 45-minute reserve.

AACA states that fuel reserve requirements for part 121 are 50

percent higher than for operating identical aircraft under part 135.

According to AACA, the large fuel reserves required for dispatching

smaller turboprop aircraft under part 121 make those aircraft

marginally economical to operate when faced with competition from

piston-powered twins operated under part 135.

At the Las Vegas public hearing, Twin Otter International stated

that taking the VFR fuel reserve from 30 to 45 minutes is 150 pounds

of fuel. That is reducing the capacity of the airplane by one

passenger. The commenter is not sure there would be any safety

benefit for sightseeing operations.

A pilot in Alaska comments that the part 135 fuel reserve

requirements are adequate and that adding more reserves would degrade

the already limited payload of many affected aircraft. Two commenters

point out that operations that begin as VFR may end up IFR and that a

45-minute reserve provides more options, than a 30-minute fuel


Another individual recommends adopting the 45-minute fuel

reserve. While it may be argued that there are a greater number of

potential alternate airports within 30 minutes flying time of a

destination airport that are capable of handling smaller, commuter-

type airplanes, some of these potential alternates may not be

acceptable from the standpoint of having weather reporting or aircraft

rescue and firefighting capability. Additionally, once airborne, fuel

time and the 30-minute reserve (some of which is unusable) might

pressure some crews into poor operational situations. A standard 45-

minute reserve provides more options.

One individual states that commuters can quantify the costs of

the additional 15 minutes of fuel reserve, which cannot be

significant. The standardization and extra fuel safety margin should

be worth the cost.

FAA Response: The FAA recognizes that there are some operations

that appear not to require a 45-minute fuel reserve. One of these is

the flight that only takes 30 minutes. The logical solution would be

to carry 30 minutes of reserve fuel so that, at worst, the airplane

could return to its airport of origin. However, in some

circumstances, such as the sudden occurrence of bad weather, returning

may not be possible. Therefore, the FAA agrees with commenters who

point out that a 45-minute fuel reserve provides more options.

The FAA also acknowledges that for some airplanes the additional

fuel may require the loss of a passenger seat and the FAA recognizes

the burden of the 45-minute reserve. Accordingly, the FAA is allowing

relief in the final rule for those who operate day VFR per operations

specifications. However, the FAA retains the requirement for a 45-

minute reserve whenever on an IFR flight plan, including under VFR

conditions. The special rule allows relief to those who are truly VFR

such as air tour operators and certain Alaskan operations. The relief

applies only to 10-19 passenger seat operators with airplanes

certificated after 1964. These smaller airplanes have more

flexibility in VFR to find a suitable landing airport. This

flexibility provides functional equivalency to part 121.