FAA Proposed New Rules For Helicopter Operators And Air Ambulances
By Daniel Baxter
October 7, 2010 -
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA) today proposed broad new rules for helicopter operators, including
air ambulances, which, if finalized, would require stricter flight rules
and procedures, improved communications and training, and additional
on-board safety equipment.
“This is a
significant proposal that will improve the safety of many helicopter
flights in the
Under the proposed rules, operators would use the latest on-board technology and equipment to avoid terrain and obstacles. The proposal also contains provisions which, if finalized, would require operators to use enhanced procedures for flying in challenging weather, at night, and when landing in remote locations. The FAA document includes new proposals covering a variety of helicopter operators.
“We can prevent accidents by preparing pilots and equipping helicopters for all of the unique flying conditions they encounter,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “These new rules are designed to protect passengers, patients, medical personnel, and pilots.”
The proposed rules would require air ambulance operators to:
* Equip with Helicopter Terrain Awareness and Warning Systems (HTAWS).
* The proposal seeks comments on requirements for light-weight aircraft recording systems (LARS).
* Conduct operations under Part 135, including flight crew time limitation and rest requirements, when medical personnel are on board.
* Establish operations control centers if they are certificate holders with 10 or more helicopter air ambulances.
* Institute pre-flight risk-analysis programs.
* Conduct safety briefings for medical personnel.
* Amend their operational requirements to include Visual Flight Rules (VFR) weather minimums, Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) operations at airports/heliports without weather reporting, procedures for VFR approaches, and VFR flight planning.
* Ensure their pilots in command hold an instrument rating.
Under the proposal, all commercial helicopter operators would be required to:
* Revise IFR alternate airport weather minimums.
* Demonstrate competency in recovery from inadvertent instrument meteorological conditions.
* Equip their helicopters with radio altimeters.
* Change the definition of “extended over-water operation” and require additional equipment for these operations.
The proposed rules would require all Part 135 aircraft, i.e. helicopter and fixed wing on-demand operators, to:
* Prepare a load manifest.
* Transmit a copy of load manifest documentation to their base of operations, in lieu of preparing a duplicate copy.
requirements for retaining a copy of the load manifest in the event that
the documentation is destroyed in an aircraft accident.
In addition, the
proposal would require Part 91 general aviation helicopter operators to
revise the VFR weather minimums.
Since August 2004,
the FAA has promoted initiatives to reduce risk for helicopter air
ambulance operations. While accidents did decline in 2005 and 2006, 2008
proved to be the deadliest year on record with six accidents that
claimed 24 lives. Overall, from 1992 through 2009, 135 helicopter air
ambulance accidents claimed 126 lives. From 1994 through 2008, there
were also 75 commercial helicopter accidents (excluding air ambulances)
that resulted in 88 fatalities.
The estimated cost
of the proposal in present value for the air ambulance industry is $136
million with a total benefit of $160 million over 10 years. The cost for
other commercial operators is $89 million with a total benefit of $115
million over 10 years.
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