In November 1994, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)

published a study on commuter airline safety. (National

Transportation Safety Board Safety Study: Commuter Airline Safety,

NTSB/SS-94/02.) The study was based on the NTSB's analysis of

accident investigations and previous studies, on a recent site survey

of airline operations and policies conducted at a representative

sample of commuter airlines, and on information obtained from a public

forum on commuter airline safety convened by the NTSB.

In the study, the NTSB found that the commuter air carrier

industry has experienced major growth in passenger traffic and changes

in its operating characteristics since the NTSB's 1980 study of the

commuter airline industry. The NTSB found that there has been a trend

in the industry toward operating larger, more sophisticated aircraft,

and many carriers have established code-sharing arrangements with

major airlines. The NTSB concluded that the regulations contained in

14 CFR part 135 have not kept pace with changes in the industry.

As a result of the findings, the NTSB issued the following safety

recommendations to the FAA:

Revise the Federal Aviation Regulations such that all scheduled

passenger service conducted in aircraft with 20 or more passenger

seats would be conducted in accordance with the provisions of 14

CFR part 121. (A-94-191)

Revise the Federal Aviation Regulations such that all scheduled

passenger service conducted in aircraft with 10 to 19 passenger

seats would be conducted in accordance with 14 CFR part 121, or

its functional equivalent, wherever possible. (A-94-192)

In the 1994 study, the NTSB examined the differences in flight

dispatch requirements between parts 121 and 135. The NTSB found that,

in the absence of support from licensed dispatch personnel, it is

difficult for a part 135 pilot to accomplish several tasks between

flights in the short periods of time available. The lack of support

might increase the risk of critical mistakes that could jeopardize the

safety of flight. As a result the NTSB issued the following

recommendation to the FAA:

Require principal operations inspectors (POI) to periodically

review air carrier flight operations policies and practices

concerning pilot tasks performed between flights to ensure that

carriers provide pilots with adequate resources (such as time and

personnel) to accomplish those tasks. (A-94-193)

The FAA published all of the NTSB recommendations in the Federal

Register (59 FR 63185, December 7, 1994) and received public comments

generally supporting the expansion of the operational rules of part

121, except for flight time limitations, to commuter operations under

part 135. Some commenters had considerable reservations about

applying certain part 121 equipment requirements to smaller airplanes.

The FAA considered these comments in developing this rule.