We expect the FAA to publish for new proposed helicopter operations regulations tomorrow (Friday). The proposed rules could reflect new opportunities for PMA manufacturers.
The proposed rules would require all helicopter air ambulance flights with medical personnel on board to be conducted under part 135 (proposed §§ 135.1, 135.601), thus increasing the population of Part 135 helicopter operations. The proposed rules would also require some new equipment rotorcraft operated under Part 135 (including those that have just been redefined as 135 operations by the new rule).
The new equipage rules under Part 135 would include:
- Each Helicopter will be required to be equipped with a radio altimeter (proposed § 135.160);
- Helicopter operations conducted over water will be required to carry additional safety equipment to assist passengers and crew in the event an accident occurs over water (proposed § 135.168);
- Helicopter air ambulances must be equipped with helicopter terrain awareness warning systems (HTAWS) (proposed § 135.605);
- Helicopter air ambulances must be equipped with a flight data monitoring system (proposed § 135.607).
These are operational rule requirements, so they do not apply to rotorcraft operated solely under Part 91 operations rules.
MARPA members who see problems or opportunities with the proposed rule (or who perceive areas where the FAA deserves appreciation for its efforts) should let MARPA know, so that the Association can file comments with the FAA that are consistent with the industry’s needs and desires.
In addition the proposed rule would impose new operational requirements for rotorcraft operated under Part 135, such as:
- Requiring pilot testing of rotorcraft handling in flat-light, whiteout, and brownout conditions and demonstration of competency in recovery from an inadvertent flight into instrument meteorological conditions (IIMC);
- Air ambulance operators with 10 or more helicopters will be required to establish operations control centers (OCC) (proposed § 135.619) and will be required to drug-and-alcohol test their operations control specialists;
- Helicopter air ambulance operators will be required to establish operations manual procedures for conducting FAA-approved preflight risk analyses (proposed § 135.617);
- Helicopter air ambulance pilots will be required to identify and document the highest obstacle along the planned route (proposed § 135.615);
- Helicopter air ambulance operators will be required to provide safety briefings or training for helicopter air ambulance medical personnel (proposed § 135.621);
Helicopter air ambulance pilots will be required to hold instrument ratings (proposed § 135.603).
MARPA members who support the rotorcraft industry (especially the air ambulance community) may want to let their customers know about this significant rule change, as their customers may wish to comment on the open rulemaking proposal.