The FAA today published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NRPM”) addressing air ambulance and commercial helicopter operations, Part 91 helicopter operations, and load manifest requirements for all Part 135 aircraft. The NPRM is a response to an increased number of air ambulance and other helicopter accidents, and multiple National Transportation Safety Board recommendations the Board has issued following its investigations into those accidents. According to the NPRM, “[t]he changes are intended to provide certificate holders and pilots with additional tools and procedures that will aid in preventing accidents.
For all operations under Part 135 (helicopter and airplane), the FAA is proposing to:
- Permit operators to transmit a copy of load manifest documentation to their base of operations, in lieu of preparing a duplicate copy; and
- Specify requirements for retaining a copy of the load manifest in the event that the documentation is destroyed in an aircraft accident.
For Part 91 helicopter operations, the FAA is proposing to:
- Revise Part 91 Visual Flight Rules (VFR) weather minimums.
For all commercial helicopter operations (not including air ambulance), the FAA is proposing to:
- Revise the commercial helicopter instrument flight rules (IFR) alternate airport weather minimums;
- Require helicopter pilots to demonstrate competency in recovery from inadvertent instrument meteorological conditions;
- Require all commercial helicopters to be equipped with radio altimeters; and
- Change definition of “extended over-water operation,” and require additional equipment for these operations.
And for helicopter air ambulance operations, the FAA is proposing:
- Require air ambulance flights with medical personnel on board to be conducted under Part 135, including flight crew time limitation and rest requirements;
- Require certificate holders with 10 or more helicopter air ambulances to establish operations control centers;
- Require helicopter air ambulance certificate holders to implement pre- flight risk-analysis programs;
Require safety briefings for medical personnel on helicopter air ambulances. Amend helicopter air ambulance operational requirements to include VFR weather minimums, IFR operations at airports/heliports without weather reporting, procedures for VFR approaches, and VFR flight planning;
- Require pilots in command to hold an instrument rating; and
- Require equipage with Helicopter Terrain Awareness and Warning Systems (HTAWS), and possibly light-weight aircraft recording systems (LARS).
Interestingly, the FAA estimates the cost of complying with the NPRM at $136,000,000 for Air Ambulance and $89,000,000 for commercial operations. On the benefit side, the FAA estimates $62,000,000 to $1,500,000,000 for Air Ambulance and $21,000,000 to $480,000,000 for commercial operations.
Comments to the NPRM are due on or before January 10, 2011. If you would like more information regarding the NPRM, you may contact the following: For technical questions concerning the NPRM contact Edwin Miller, Flight Standards Service, Part 135 Air Carrier Operations Branch, AFS-250, Federal Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20591; telephone (202) 267-8166; facsimile (202) 267-5229; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For legal questions concerning the NPRM contact Dean Griffith, Office of the Chief Counsel, AGC-220, Federal Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20591; telephone (202) 267-3073; facsimile (202) 267-7971; e-mail email@example.com.