On February 13, 2007, the FAA published its National Air Tour Standards Final Rule. The Final Rule sets “safety and oversight rules for a broad variety of sightseeing and commercial air tour flights” and standardizes requirements for air tour operators and consolidates air tour safety standards within FAR Part 136. The Final Rule establishes three covered groups of operators: Group 1-Part 119 certificate holders with authority to conduct commercial air tour flights in accordance with either part 121 or part 135; Group 2-Part 91 operators conducting commercial air tour flights in accordance with the exception contained in section 119.1(e)(2) (also known as the 25-mile exception); and Group 3-Part 91 operators conducting flights for certain charitable, nonprofit,or community events in accordance with the exception contained in § 119.1(e)(2).
Group 2 operators will have to implement a drug and alcohol testing program and their pilots must hold at least a commercial or air transport pilot certificate. These operators will also need to obtain a letter of authorization from the FAA and meet many of the same safety requirements as Group 1 operators under Part 136.
Group 3 operators include operators that fly for charitable events, such as the Young Eagles. The final rule establishes a new FAR 91.146 for charitable, nonprofit, and community event flights. The Final Rule clarifies what operations qualify as charitable, nonprofit and community events. It also limits operations to four charitable and nonprofit events each year and one community event each year and an “event” may not last more than three consecutive days. Although Group 3 operators are exempt from drug and alcohol testing, the operations will still need to meet the safety requirements contained in Part 136. Additionally, pilots conducting these operations will need at least 500 flight hours or a commercial pilot’s certificate and the flights will need to remain within 25 statute miles of the airports.
Finally, certain experimental or restricted category aircraft (such as warbirds, vintage or barnstorming aircraft) may still be used under the 25-mile exception, but their operators will continue to need an exemption from the standard airworthiness requirements and to obtain a letter of authorization from the FAA.
The Final Rule is effective March 15, 2007 and operators will have 180 days after that to demonstrate compliance. However, operators will have 18 months to meet the float requirements. If you would like further information regarding the Final Rule, you may contact Alberta Brown, Air Transportation Division, AFS–200, Federal Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20591; telephone: (202) 267–8166; facsimile: (202) 267–8229; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. For legal information, contact: Bruce Glendening, Operations Law Branch, Federal Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20591; telephone: (202)267–8011; facsimile: (202) 267–7971; email: email@example.com.