A proposed rule to improve helicopter flight safety won praise today from Rep. James L. Oberstar (Minn.), Chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Rep. Jerry F. Costello (Ill.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Aviation.
The Federal Aviation Administration today issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on broad new regulations to require stricter flight rules and procedures, improved communications and training, and additional on-board safety equipment for helicopter operations.
"I applaud FAA for this proposed rulemaking," said Oberstar. "This proposal covers helicopter air ambulance services, which have been of concern to the Committee. This rulemaking is consistent with air ambulance safety language in the FAA reauthorization bill that has won approval in the House."
"Today's proposed rule by the FAA is a positive step to ensure that major safety improvements are made in the helicopter industry. I am pleased to see that the NPRM seeks to address many of the helicopter safety issues that the Subcommittee has outlined in oversight hearings and in the House-passed FAA reauthorization bill, many of which have been on the National Transportation Safety Board's "Most Wanted List' for years," stated Costello.
The proposed rule would require air ambulance operators to:
* Equip their aircraft with Helicopter Terrain Awareness and Warning Systems. FAA also seeks comments on requirements for light-weight aircraft recording systems.
* 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 weather minimums, Instrument Flight Rules operations at airports/heliports without weather reporting, procedures for VFR approaches, and VFR flight planning.
* Ensure that 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 rule 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.
* Specify 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.
FAA will accept public comment on the proposed rulemaking through January 10, 2011.