The FAA has issued Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: Docket Number 4521 titled National Air Tour Safety Standards. The NPRM proposes limitations and restrictions on the ability of pilots to engage in charity and sightseeing flights. The NPRM appears to be a response to a number of sightseeing accidents involving Part 135 helicopter operators, but it’s scope and impact as proposed will be much broader. However, if implemented as proposed, the airplane ride at the local airport may become a thing of the past.
Currently, local sightseeing flights for compensation are provided under FAR Part 91 pursuant to 14 CFR 119.1(e)(2). This FAR exempts sightseeing flights from the more stringent procedural and operational requirements of air carriers under FAR Parts 121 and 135. However, as proposed, the new rule would require that any operator providing sightseeing flights comply with more onerous operating and recordkeeping rules that are economically burdensome to the operator with little, if any, clear enhancement of safety. Interestingly, of the accidents cited in the NPRM, 9 of the 11 were air carriers already operating under FAR Part 135.
Although the proposed rule would amend 14 CFR to create a new part 136 including an exemption for Part 91 operators for charitable rides, it would restrict those to “4 events per organization per year with each event lasting no longer than 3 days or one event lasting 3 days or fewer”. Again, with no direct correlation to, or impact upon, safety.
If the proposed rule is implemented, the operators willing and authorized to provide sightseeing and charity flights will certainly decrease. The airplane ride at the local airport that lit the fire of enthusiasm for aviation in many of us will be smothered. At this critical time in general aviation’s history, we need to be removing impediments to becoming a pilot, not creating obstacles.
Comments to the rule are due by January 20, 2004. They may be submitted via the internet by going to http://dms.dot.gov/search and entering the NPRM docket number. You must then click on the comments/submissions button. Or via U.S.Mail to: Document Management System, U.S. Department of Transportation, Room Plaza 401, 400 Seventh Street, SW, Washington, DC 20590-0001. You need to identify the docket number FAA-1998-4521 at the beginning of your comments, and submit two copies of your comments. Also, mark your envelope as follows: RE: Docket No. FAA-1998-4521; NPRM: National Air Tour Safety Standards.