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
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.