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FAA Publishes Proposed Rulemaking for Medical Helicopters

Oct 24, 2010

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed broad new rules for helicopter operators, including air ambulances, which, if finalized, would require stricter flight rules and procedures, improved communications and training, and additional on-board safety equipment.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed broad new rules for helicopter operators, including air ambulances, which, if finalized, would require stricter flight rules and
procedures, improved communications and training, and additional on-board safety equipment. The proposed rules would require air ambulance operators to:
• Equip with Helicopter Terrain Awareness and Warning Systems (HTAWS).
• The proposal seeks comments on requirements for light-weight aircraft recording systems (LARS).
• 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 (VFR) weather minimums, Instrument
Flight Rules (IFR) operations at airports/heliports without weather reporting, procedures for VFR
approaches, and VFR flight planning.
• Ensure 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 rules would also 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. The Notice for Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) was published in the Federal Register on October 12th and the 90- day public comment period closes on Jan. 10, 2011. The NPRM follows recommendations issued by the National Transportation Board (NTSB) after its three-day hearing last year.