[Federal Register Volume 63, Number 170 (Wednesday, September 2, 1998)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 46834-46842]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 98-23662]



[[Page 46833]]

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Part III





Department of Transportation





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Federal Aviation Administration



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14 CFR Parts 21, 27, 29, and 91



Flight Plan Requirements for Helicopter Operations Under Instrument 
Flight Rules; Proposed Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 63, No. 170 / Wednesday, September 2, 1998 /  
Proposed Rules

[[Page 46834]]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Aviation Administration

14 CFR Parts 21, 27, 29, and 91

[Docket No. FAA-98-4390; Notice No. 98-12]
RIN 2120-AG53


Flight Plan Requirements for Helicopter Operations Under 
Instrument Flight Rules

AGENCY: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM).

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SUMMARY: The FAA proposes to amend the general operating rules 
pertaining to flight plan requirements for flight by helicopters under 
instrument flight rules (IFR) by revising the alternate airport weather 
planning requirements, the weather minima necessary to designate an 
airport as an alternate on an IFR flight plan, and the fuel 
requirements for helicopter flight in IFR conditions. This proposed 
rule is needed because current rules discourage helicopter operations 
under instrument flight rules in marginal weather conditions. This 
proposed rule would increase safety by allowing helicopter operators 
access into the IFR system commensurate with the unique flight 
characteristics of helicopters.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before October 2, 1998.

ADDRESSES: Comments on this proposed rulemaking may be delivered or 
mailed, in duplicate, to: U.S. Department of Transportation Dockets, 
Docket No. FAA-98-4390, 400 Seventh St., SW, Rm. Plaza 401, Washington, 
DC 20590. Comments may also be sent electronically to the following 
internet address: [email protected] Comments may be filed and/or 
examined in Room Plaza 401 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays, except 
federal holidays.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: William H. Wallace, General Aviation 
Commercial Division (AFS-804), Flight Standards Service, Federal 
Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 
20591; telephone (202) 267-3771.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Comments Invited

    Interested persons are invited to participate in this rulemaking by 
submitting such written data, views, or arguments as they may desire. 
Comments relating to the environmental, energy, economic, federalism, 
or economic impact that might result from adopting the proposals in 
this notice are also invited. Comments must identify the regulatory 
docket or notice number and be submitted in duplicate to the Rules 
Docket address specified above.
    All comments received, as well as a report summarizing each 
substantive public contact with FAA personnel on this rulemaking, will 
be filed in the docket. The docket is available for public inspection 
both before and after the comment closing date.
    All comments received on or before the closing date will be 
considered by the Administrator before taking action on this proposed 
rulemaking. Late-filed comments will be considered to the extent 
practicable. The proposals contained in this notice may be changed in 
light of the comments received.
    Commenters wishing the FAA to acknowledge receipt of their comments 
submitted in response to this notice must include a self-addressed, 
stamped postcard with those comments on which the following statement 
is made: ``Comments to Docket No. 98-4390.'' The postcard will be date 
stamped and mailed to the commenter.

Availability of the NPRM

    An electronic copy of this document may be downloaded using a modem 
and suitable communications software from the FAA regulations section 
of the Fedworld electronic bulletin board service (telephone: 202-321-
3339), the Government Printing Office's electronic bulletin board 
service (telephone: 202-512-1661), or the FAA's Aviation Rulemaking 
Advisory Committee Bulletin Board service (telephone: 800-FAA-ARAC).
    Internet users may reach the FAA's web page at http://www.faa.gov/
avr/arm/nprm/nprm.htm or the Government Printing Office's webpage at 
http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara for access to recently published 
rulemaking documents.
    Any person may obtain a copy of this NPRM by mail by submitting a 
request to the Federal Aviation Administration, Office of Rulemaking, 
ARM-1, 800 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20591, or by calling 
(202) 267-9677. Communications must identify the notice number of this 
NPRM.
    Persons interested in being placed on the mailing list for future 
NPRM's should request from the FAA's Office of Rulemaking a copy of 
Advisory Circular No. 11-2A, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Distribution 
System, that describes the application procedure.

I. Background

Unique IFR Flight Capabilities of Helicopters

    The current IFR flight plan filing rules were issued to provide 
safe landing weather minima in IFR conditions for airplanes operating 
under IFR. Apart from the distinction in Sec. 91.167 concerning the 
amount of fuel a helicopter must carry versus the fuel an airplane must 
carry, flight planning requirements, including alternate airport 
weather minima, are the same for airplanes and helicopters even though 
the operating characteristics of these aircraft are quite different.
    Helicopters fly shorter distances at slower speeds than large 
airplanes, and generally remain in the air for shorter periods between 
landings. Therefore, a helicopter is less likely to fly into 
unanticipated, unknown or unforecast weather. The relatively short 
duration of the typical helicopter flight leg means that the departure 
weather and the helicopter's destination weather are likely to be 
within the same weather system.

Current Helicopter Instrument Flight Rules

    Section 91.169 of title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 
requires that, unless otherwise authorized by air traffic control 
(ATC), each person filing an instrument flight rule (IFR) flight plan 
must include, among other things, an alternate airport designation, 
unless the exceptions in Sec. 91.169 (b) are met. These exceptions 
specify that a person need not designate an alternate airport on an IFR 
flight plan if 14 CFR part 97 prescribes a standard instrument approach 
procedure for the first airport of intended landing and, for at least 1 
hour before and 1 hour after the estimated time of arrival at that 
airport, weather reports or forecasts indicate that the ceiling will be 
at least 2,000 feet above the airport elevation and the visibility will 
be at least 3 statute miles.
    In addition, Sec. 91.169 (c)(1) states that unless otherwise 
authorized by the Administrator, no person may include an alternate 
airport in an IFR flight plan unless the current weather forecast 
indicates that, at the estimated time of arrival at the alternate 
airport, the ceiling and visibility will be at or above the following 
weather minima: At airports for which an instrument approach procedure 
has been published in 14 CFR part 97, the alternate minima specified in 
that procedure or, if none are specified, for precision approach 
procedures, a ceiling of 600 feet and visibility of 2 statute miles; 
for nonprecision approach procedures, a

[[Page 46835]]

ceiling of 800 feet and visibility of 2 statute miles. Section 91.169 
(c) (2) states that if no instrument approach procedure for the 
alternate airport has been published in 14 CFR part 97, the ceiling and 
visibility minima are those that allow descent from the minimum enroute 
altitude (MEA), approach, and landing under basic VFR.
    In addition, to fly under IFR conditions, a person operating a 
civil aircraft must comply with the IFR fuel requirements of 
Sec. 91.167. Section 91.167 requires that an aircraft must carry enough 
fuel (considering weather reports and forecasts and weather conditions) 
to--(1) complete the flight to the first airport of intended landing, 
(2) fly from that airport to the alternate airport, and (3) fly after 
that for 45 minutes at normal cruising speed or, for helicopters, fly 
after that for 30 minutes at normal cruising speed.
    Section 91.167 (b) specifies that the requirement to have 
sufficient fuel to fly to the alternate airport does not apply if 14 
CFR part 97 prescribes a standard instrument approach procedure for the 
first airport of intended landing and, for at least 1 hour before and 1 
hour after the estimated time of arrival at that airport, weather 
reports or forecasts indicate that the ceiling will be 2,000 feet above 
the airport elevation and the visibility will be at least 3 statute 
miles.

Helicopter Visual Flight Rules

    In contrast to IFR flight minima, a helicopter operator may fly VFR 
in Class G airspace clear of clouds if flying at a speed that allows 
the pilot adequate opportunity to see any air traffic or obstruction in 
time to avoid a collision (14 CFR 91.155 (b)(1)). In Classes C and D 
airspace, and in Class E airspace below 10,000 feet mean sea level 
(MSL), VFR flight is not permitted in an aircraft, including a 
helicopter, when the flight visibility is less than three statute miles 
and the distance from the clouds is less than 500 feet below, 1,000 
feet above, or 2,000 feet horizontal (14 CFR 91.155 (a)). In Class B 
airspace, VFR flight is permitted where a helicopter is clear of clouds 
with three miles flight visibility. Section 91.157--Special VFR Weather 
Minimums, allows special VFR operations under other weather minima and 
requirements than those allowed by Sec. 91.155. As a result, a 
helicopter may operate under VFR in weather conditions that would 
otherwise preclude the operator from filing an IFR flight plan under 
Sec. 91.169 because the alternate weather minima criteria cannot be 
met. Often, IFR-equipped and certified helicopters are safely flown by 
IFR-rated pilots under VFR in weather that might be characterized as 
marginal VFR. Although such operations are permitted, the FAA would 
prefer to make the benefits of IFR operation available to helicopters 
that would otherwise fly in marginal VFR conditions. Therefore, the FAA 
is proposing to revise the weather minima for the designation of 
alternate airports to allow helicopter operators to take advantage of 
the IFR system. In addition, the FAA is proposing to revise the fuel 
reserve requirements for helicopter flight into IFR conditions.
    The FAA is proposing to change the weather criteria in 
Sec. 91.167(b)(2) for determining whether a helicopter operating in IFR 
conditions must carry enough fuel to fly from the first airport of 
intended landing to an alternate airport. Currently, additional fuel to 
fly to an alternate airport need not be carried if part 97 prescribes a 
standard instrument approach and if, for at least one hour before and 
one hour after the estimated time of arrival, the ceiling is at least 
2,000 feet above airport elevation and the visibility is at least 3 
statute miles. Under proposed Sec. 91.167(b)(2), a helicopter operator 
would not have to carry additional fuel to fly from the first airport 
of intended landing to an alternate airport if--(1) part 97 prescribes 
a standard instrument approach procedure for that airport; (2) weather 
reports or forecasts, or any combination of them, indicate that, at the 
estimated time of arrival and for 1 hour after the estimated time of 
arrival, the ceiling would be at least 1,000 feet above the airport 
elevation, or 400 feet above the lowest approach minima; and (3) the 
visibility would be at least 2 statute miles. Thus, the proposed 
rewrite of Sec. 91.167 would change the existing requirements for 
helicopter operations in two ways. First, it would eliminate the 
current requirement that weather reports or forecasts indicate that 
certain weather minima exist for at least 1 hour before the estimated 
time of arrival. Second, although the FAA proposes to retain a 
requirement that weather forecasts or reports indicate that certain 
weather minima exist at the estimated time of arrival and for 1 hour 
after the estimated time of arrival, those ceiling and visibility 
minima would be reduced.
    Under Sec. 91.169 (b)(2), the FAA is proposing to change the 
existing requirement that each person filing an IFR flight plan must 
include an alternate airport unless part 97 prescribes ceiling and 
visibility reports for at least 1 hour before and 1 hour after the 
estimated time of arrival. The proposal would eliminate the current 
requirement that weather reports or forecasts indicate that certain 
weather minima exist for at least 1 hour before the estimated time of 
arrival. The proposal would also reduce the requirements that the 
ceiling be at least 2,000 feet above airport elevation with visibility 
at least 3 statute miles to requirements for a ceiling of 1,000 feet 
above airport elevation, or 400 feet above the lowest approach minima 
(whichever is higher), with visibility at least 2 statute miles.
    As to situations involving flight to airports for which an 
instrument approach procedure has been published for part 97, the 
proposed rule would revise Sec. 91.169 (c)(1) to reduce the alternate 
airport weather minima for helicopter flight plan filing purposes as 
follows: (1) for precision approaches, ceiling 400 feet and visibility 
of 1 statute mile, but never lower than the approach to be flown, and 
(2) for non-precision approaches, ceiling of 600 feet and visibility 1 
statute mile, but never lower than the approach to be flown.

Safety Benefits of IFR Operation

    Aircraft operating under IFR are part of the national IFR system, 
which includes the air traffic monitoring and control structure. This 
system assures that both pilots and air traffic controllers know where 
the aircraft is and can work together to avoid hazards and complete the 
flight safely. In addition, immediate assistance is available in the 
event of an emergency. Accident data collected by the National 
Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) shows that weather-related accidents 
occur far more frequently under VFR than IFR. Between 1987 and 1996, a 
total of 275 weather-related helicopter accidents occurred, 202 during 
flights for which no VFR flight plan had been filed, and 68 during 
flights for which a VFR flight plan had been filed. During this same 
period, only five weather-related helicopter accidents occurred during 
flights for which an IFR plan had been filed. The NTSB data strongly 
suggest that helicopter flights conducted under IFR are less likely to 
have weather-related accidents than helicopter flights conducted under 
VFR flight plans or those conducted without a flight plan.
    In 1988, the NTSB published a report, entitled ``Commercial 
Emergency Medical Service Helicopter Operations,'' which was initiated 
because the accident rate for EMS operations was twice the rate 
experienced by part 135 on-demand helicopter operations and one and 
one-half times the rate for all turbine-powered helicopters. The NTSB 
determined that marginal weather and inadvertent flight into instrument 
meteorological conditions (IMC) were

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the most serious hazards that EMS helicopters encounter. The report 
states:

    The Board believes that although the IFR system is not designed 
optimally for IFR helicopters and that the nature of the EMS 
helicopter mission further complicates this problem, the safety 
advantages offered by IFR helicopters flown by current and 
proficient pilots are great enough that EMS programs should 
seriously consider obtaining this capability.
    The NTSB also made the following observations:
    Due to their speed and endurance, fixed-wing aircraft can fly to 
their destination, fly another 100 miles to an alternate airport, 
and then fly 45 minutes at cruise with little difficulty--the 
capability called for by the IFR alternate airport requirements. A 
helicopter, however, would have difficulty meeting these 
requirements; it is a relatively slow aircraft with limited 
endurance due to its high fuel consumption. Thus, the IFR alternate 
airport requirements are one major reason why many EMS helicopter 
programs are reluctant to invest in IFR-capable aircraft and pilots.
    The Safety Board believes there is merit in the argument that 
the current alternate airport requirements, while appropriate for 
airplanes, are overly restrictive for helicopters; in the case of 
EMS helicopters, the restrictions coupled with the lower VFR 
minimums applicable to these operations, result mainly in 
discouraging the wider use of IFR-capable helicopters.

    Thus, the FAA believes that lowering the alternate airport weather 
minima for IFR filing purposes will encourage helicopter operators to 
use the IFR system and reduce the number of weather-related, VFR 
accidents.

Anticipated Secondary Benefits of IFR Operation

    In addition to the safety benefits discussed above, this proposed 
rulemaking is expected to result in certain environmental and economic 
benefits. Environmental benefits may result because IFR flights 
generally are conducted at higher altitudes and therefore create less 
overflight sound than VFR helicopter flights in marginal weather 
conditions. Similarly, enhancing helicopter access to the IFR system is 
expected to result in increased utilization of existing IFR-certified 
and equipped helicopters, thereby yielding economic benefits in terms 
of greater returns on investment, and more efficient use of equipment, 
time and other resources. Economic costs and benefits are discussed 
below under ``Economic Evaluation Summary.''

History of This Rulemaking

    Over the past 15 years, there have been specific recommendations 
from industry, and from joint efforts of the FAA and industry regarding 
regulatory changes to safely expand helicopter access to the IFR 
system. The FAA has been addressing these recommendations by working 
with industry to identify regulations that prevent safe helicopter 
operations in the IFR environment.
    In 1975, the FAA issued Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) 
No. 29, which authorizes the Administrator to approve the carriage in 
IFR operations of less than the 45 minutes, but not less than the 30 
minutes, of additional fuel reserve required by Sec. 91.23 (c) (now 
91.167(a)(3)) and to issue approvals for limited IFR operations for 
certain transport category rotorcraft that are certified to only 
operate under VFR. In 1979, the FAA undertook the Rotorcraft Regulatory 
Review Program (44 FR 3250; Jan. 15, 1979), which was a comprehensive 
review of rotorcraft operations and certification.
    In an NPRM issued March 13, 1985 (50 FR 10144), the FAA proposed to 
amend Sec. 91.23 (now Sec. 91.167) to reduce the fuel reserve 
requirement for helicopters from 45 minutes to 30 minutes, the ceiling 
requirement for helicopters from 2,000 feet to 1,000 feet, and the 
visibility requirement for helicopters from 3 miles to 1 mile. No 
changes were proposed to Sec. 91.83 (now Sec. 91.169). As the FAA 
stated in the preamble to the NPRM, the basis for the proposed 
reductions was that a helicopter has the unique ability to reduce 
airspeed safely on approach to as low as 40 knots, and is therefore 
provided reduced visibility minima in part 97. The proposal went on to 
say that because the helicopter, with its reduced minima, has a better 
probability of completing the flight to the planned destination it 
should be allowed a reduced fuel reserve. In the 1985 NPRM, the FAA 
also stated that it had gained sufficient experience with operations 
under SFAR No. 29 to conclude that reducing the required fuel reserve 
would not decrease the level of safety.
    On November 7, 1986 (51 FR 40692), the FAA published a final rule 
which adopted the proposal under Sec. 91.23 to reduce the fuel reserve. 
The FAA did not, however, adopt the proposal to reduce the ceiling and 
visibility minima because a report entitled ``Weather Deterioration 
Models Applied to Alternate Airport Criteria (Report No. DOT/FAA/RD 81/
92 (September 1981) had stated that ``any reduction in alternate 
airport requirements should be offset by limiting the duration of the 
flight for which the reduced requirements apply'' (p. 4-1). The 
findings in that report, however, were preliminary, and in the 17 years 
that have passed since it was issued, the FAA's experience with 
helicopter IFR flight plan filing criteria indicates that the 
preliminary concern for reduced helicopter ceiling and visibility 
minima was over emphasized.
    In 1982, the United States Army adopted reduced IFR alternate 
airport weather planning minima and alternate airport selection 
criteria for both helicopters and airplanes. The Army's criteria of a 
ceiling 400 feet above the weather planning minimum required for the 
approach to be flown, and visibility one mile greater than the weather 
planning minimum required for the approach to be flown has been used 
for over 16 years and thousands of flight hours with no mishap 
associated with weather planning criteria. The U.S. Army's experience 
demonstrates that reducing helicopter ceiling and visibility minima for 
IFR flight planning results in a level of safety equivalent to the 
current rule and offers greater operational flexibility for helicopter 
operators.
    In August 1993, a workshop conducted by the FAA with industry, 
called the Extremely Low Visibility Instrument Rotorcraft Approaches 
(ELVIRA) Workshop, resulted in a list of ``Ten Most Wanted'' changes 
(see ``Extremely Low Visibility IFR Rotorcraft Approach (ELVIRA) 
Operational Concept Development, Final Report,'' Report No. DOT/FAA/RD-
94/1,I. (March 1994)). The unprioritized list of 10 desired IFR system 
enhancements included ``Rotorcraft Specific Minima'' for determining 
the need for, and availability of, alternate airports for flight plan 
filing purposes ( ELVIRA report, p. 3).
    Since rotorcraft are for the most part range-limited, their 
destination airport and alternate airport will most likely be in the 
same air mass and consequently will have similar weather. In the ELVIRA 
final report (p. 34), the FAA noted that the current regulations result 
in a ``severe penalty in the productivity of helicopters operating 
under IFR.'' In addition, the FAA observed that ``with certain weather 
conditions it is often impossible for the helicopter operator to gain 
access to the current IFR system, while VFR flight is allowed. * * * 
[C]hanging this [the alternate airport minimums] to 400-1 for a 
[helicopter] precision approach and 600-1 for a [helicopter] non-
precision approach procedure, will enable many more [helicopter] IFR 
operations to take place while maintaining the same level of safety'' 
(pp. 34-35).
    On February 23, 1995, Helicopter Association International (HAI) 
petitioned the FAA for an exemption

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from Sec. 91.169 (c)(1)(i), which provides that alternate airport 
minima for a precision approach are a ceiling of 600 feet and 
visibility of 2 statute miles. The petition asked the FAA to allow 
lower alternate airport weather minima for IFR flight planning.
    On April 24, 1996, HAI filed an amendment to its petition for 
exemption from Sec. 91.169 (c)(1)(i), proposing, in part, to limit 
operations under the requested exemption to those conducted by certain 
operators named in the amended petition. The stated purpose of this 
amendment was the further ``accumulation of data to prove the 
operational safety of the use of such minimums.'' In addition, the FAA 
has received 13 other petitions requesting amendments to Secs. 91.169 
and 91.167 to allow helicopter operations with reduced alternate 
weather requirements.
    The FAA's action on this NPRM responds to the petitions for 
exemption from HAI and others. With the publication of this NPRM, the 
FAA is closing the docket on HAI's petition for exemption, and on the 
petitions submitted by HAI and others for various amendments to 
Secs. 91.169 and 91.167 and related regulations.

ARAC Working Group Recommendation

    The Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC) was established 
by the FAA to provide industry information and expertise during the 
rulemaking process. In October 1991, an IFR Fuel Reserve Working Group 
of the ARAC, General Aviation Operations Issues, was assigned the task 
to ``evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of revising the fuel 
reserve requirements for flight under instrument flight rules'' (56 FR 
51744; Oct. 15, 1991). Later the working group also evaluated--(1) the 
advantages and disadvantages of revised precision and non-precision 
instrument approach minima and alternate weather minima, considering 
the operational capability of the helicopter to decelerate before and 
during arrival at the Decision Height or Minimum Descent Altitude, 
including circling approaches; and (2) whether or not this capability 
reduces risk and the probability of a missed approach and the need to 
proceed to an alternate and meet the resulting regulatory alternate 
fuel requirement. The working group, which consisted of representatives 
from helicopter associations, helicopter manufacturers, helicopter 
pilot associations, helicopter operators, and government agencies, met 
numerous times between January 1992 and October 1997. This proposed 
rule is based on ARAC's recommendation that was submitted to the FAA in 
November 1997.
    In their document, ARAC recommended that the FAA revise the weather 
minima used to determine whether carriage of additional fuel to reach 
an alternate airport is needed when flying in IFR conditions. 
Specifically, ARAC suggested revising paragraph (b)(2) of Sec. 91.167--
Fuel requirements for flight in IFR conditions, to state that: ``* * * 
weather reports or prevailing weather forecast or combination of them 
indicate * * * for helicopters, at the estimated time of arrival, the 
ceiling will be 1,000 feet above the airport elevation or 400 feet 
above the lowest approach minima, whichever is higher; and * * * at the 
estimated time of arrival, the visibility will be at least 2 statute 
miles.'' The ARAC's suggested revisions would create different ceiling 
and visibility criteria for helicopters (as opposed to those for 
airplanes), and would also change the requirement that those ceiling 
and visibility criteria be in effect for at least 1 hour before and 1 
hour after the estimated time of arrival.
    ARAC also recommended that IFR flight plan requirements for 
helicopters be amended by revising the alternate airport weather 
planning requirements and weather minima necessary when designating an 
alternate airport on an IFR flight plan. ARAC suggested that the FAA 
revise paragraph (b) of Sec. 91.169--IFR flight plan: Information 
required, to state that, if 14 CFR part 97 prescribes ``. . . a 
standard instrument approach procedure for the first airport of 
intended landing and the weather reports or prevailing weather forecast 
or combination of them indicate . . . for helicopters, at the estimated 
time of arrival, the ceiling will be at least 1,000 feet above the 
airport or heliport elevation or 400 feet above the lowest approach 
minima, whichever is higher; and . . . at the estimated time of 
arrival, the visibility will be at least 2 statute miles.''
    Under Sec. 91.169 (c), ARAC again suggested creating different IFR 
alternate weather minima for helicopters performing precision and 
nonprecision approaches (as opposed to those for airplanes). The new 
criteria would apply when it would be necessary to include an alternate 
airport in an IFR flight plan. Ceiling and visibility conditions at the 
alternate airport would be for ``current prevailing weather forecasts . 
. . at the estimated time of arrival'' (when no instrument approach 
procedure has been specified in 14 CFR part 97 for an alternate 
airport). The helicopter minima recommended by ARAC are as follows. For 
a ``precision approach procedure . . . for helicopters, [c]eiling 400 
feet and visibility 1 statute mile'' and for a ``nonprecision approach 
procedure . . . for helicopters, [c]eiling 600 feet and visibility 1 
statute mile.''
    The FAA agrees with most of ARAC's recommendations, except the 
elimination of the requirement under Sec. Sec. 91.167 (b)(2) and 91.169 
(b) that weather report and forecast data be in effect for 1 hour after 
the estimated time of arrival. The FAA is proposing to keep that 
requirement. See ``Discussion of Proposed Rule'' below

II. Discussion of the Proposed Rule

    Based largely on ARAC's recommendations, the FAA proposes to amend 
the general operating rules pertaining to flight plan requirements for 
flight by helicopters under IFR by revising the: (1) alternate airport 
weather planning requirements; (2) weather minima necessary to 
designate an airport as an alternate on an IFR flight plan; and (3) 
fuel requirements for helicopter flight into IFR conditions.
    The proposal reflects the differences in operational 
characteristics between airplanes and helicopters by maintaining the 
current requirements for airplanes while reducing the forecast ceiling 
and visibility minima for helicopters. Under the FAA's proposed 
Sec. 91.167 (b), fuel requirements for helicopter flights to an 
alternate airport in IFR conditions would not apply to helicopters if 
weather reports or forecasts, or any combination of them, indicate 
that, at the estimated time of arrival and for 1 hour after estimated 
time of arrival at the intended destination, the ceiling will be 1,000 
feet above the airport elevation or 400 feet above the lowest approach 
minima and the visibility will be at least 2 statute miles. As 
discussed above (under ``ARAC Working Group Recommendation''), in its 
November 1997 submission to the FAA, ARAC recommended that the 
Sec. 91.167 (b)(2) weather criteria be applicable at the estimated time 
of arrival. The FAA, however, proposes that the weather criteria be 
applicable at the estimated time of arrival and for 1 hour after the 
estimated time of arrival. Because weather can change suddenly and 
unexpectedly, the FAA believes that this extra margin of safety is 
necessary. The FAA specifically requests public comment on whether this 
requirement would be reasonable.
    The FAA also proposes to revise the requirements for helicopter 
filing IFR flight plans under Sec. 91.169 (b) so that an alternate 
airport designation would not be required on an IFR flight plan for

[[Page 46838]]

helicopters using standard instrument approach procedures if weather 
reports or forecasts, or any combination of them, indicate that, at the 
estimated time of arrival and for 1 hour after the estimated time of 
arrival at the intended destination, the ceiling will be at least 1,000 
feet above the airport elevation, or 400 feet above the lowest approach 
minima, whichever is higher, and the visibility will be at least 2 
statute miles. As with the amendment of Sec. 91.167 (b)(2) (discussed 
above), ARAC recommended that the Sec. 91.169 (b) weather criteria be 
applicable at the estimated time of arrival. However, the FAA is 
proposing that weather criteria be applicable at the estimated time of 
arrival and for 1 hour after the estimated time of arrival. Again, the 
FAA believes that this extra margin of safety is necessary, but 
specifically requests public comment on whether this requirement would 
be reasonable.
    In addition, the proposed rule would revise Sec. 91.169(c) to 
reduce the alternate airport weather minima for helicopter IFR flight 
plan filing purposes as follows: (1) for precision approach procedures, 
a ceiling of 400 feet and visibility of 1 statute mile, but never lower 
than the published minima for the approach to be flown; and (2) for 
non-precision approach procedures, a ceiling of 600 feet and visibility 
of 1 statute mile, but never lower than the published minima for the 
approach to be flown.
    The FAA is also proposing to remove ``Special Federal Aviation 
Regulation (SFAR) No. 29-4--Limited IFR Operations of Rotorcraft'' from 
14 CFR parts 21 and 91, and notes referencing it from 14 CFR parts 27 
and 29. This action is being taken because the SFAR does not include 
the proposed provisions for alternate airport weather planning minima 
and weather minimum necessary to designate an airport as an alternate; 
therefore, if this proposal is adopted as final, SFAR No. 29-4 would no 
longer be necessary. The FAA has not issued any approvals under SFAR 
No. 29-4 in recent years and believes that all approvals previously 
issued have either been surrendered or revoked, or have terminated. 
While the FAA does not know of any operators that would be adversely 
impacted by the removal of SFAR No. 29-4, the agency specifically 
requests comments from operators that believe they would be.
    Aside from the substantive amendments described above, the FAA is 
also proposing to issue these amendments in clear, easy to follow 
language. This is discussed below under ``III. Plain Language in 
Government Writing.''

III. Plain Language in Government Writing

    In response to the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and 
Security's recommendation that the FAA's regulations should be 
simplified and, as appropriate, rewritten in plain English 
(Recommendation 1.4; Final Report to President Clinton, February 12, 
1997), as well as the June 1, 1998, Presidential Memorandum on ``Plain 
Language in Government Writing,'' the FAA has attempted to make the 
proposed regulatory text for Secs. 91.167 and 91.169 as easy to follow 
as possible. Under Sec. 91.167, paragraph (a) does not contain any new 
requirements, but would be clarified by moving the exception clause to 
paragraph (a)(2), which it modifies. Section 91.169 (a)(2) does not 
contain any new requirements, but would be clarified by moving the 
exception clause to the beginning of the sentence to make it consistent 
with Sec. 91.167 (a)(2). In addition, the FAA has made one minor 
clarification to the airplane flight planning provisions in 
Secs. 91.167(b)(2) and 91.169(b) by adding the word ``for'' before the 
phrase ``1 hour after'' to make it consistent with the helicopter 
flight planning provisions.
    The FAA is setting forth the proposed revisions to Secs. 91.167 (b) 
and 91.169 (b) and (c) in two formats, tabular and narrative (each 
containing the same proposed new requirements). The FAA specifically 
requests comments on whether the amendments set forth in this NPRM are 
in clear language, and whether the tabular or narrative format in 
Sec. 91.167 (b) and 91.169 (b) and (c) is preferable. Only one format 
will be adopted at the final rule stage.

IV. Economic Evaluation Summary

    This proposed rule is not considered a significant regulatory 
action under section 3(f) of Executive Order 12866 and, therefore, is 
not subject to review by the Office of Management and Budget. The 
proposed rule is not considered significant under the regulatory 
policies and procedures of the Department of Transportation (44 FR 
11034; Feb. 26, 1979).
    Both the executive and legislative branches of government recognize 
that economic considerations are an important factor in establishing 
regulations. Executive Order 12866, signed by President Clinton on 
September 30, 1993, requires Federal agencies to assess both the costs 
and benefits of proposed regulations and, recognizing that some costs 
and benefits are difficult to quantify, propose or adopt regulations 
only upon a reasoned determination that the benefits of each regulation 
justify its costs. In addition, the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 
requires Federal agencies to determine whether or not proposed 
regulations are expected to have a significant economic impact on a 
substantial number of small entities, and, if so, examine feasible 
regulatory alternatives to minimize the economic burden on small 
entities. Finally, the Office of Management and Budget directs agencies 
to assess the effects of proposed regulations on international trade.
    This section of the preamble summarizes the FAA's economic and 
trade analyses, findings, and determinations in response to these 
requirements. The complete economic and trade analyses are contained in 
the docket (see ``Addresses'' above).

Benefits

    There are some non-quantifiable benefits that can be attributed to 
this proposed rulemaking, such as the reduction in the level of 
aircraft noise experienced by individuals on the ground when 
helicopters fly at higher altitudes. These benefits are difficult to 
accurately measure, and are discussed in qualitative terms. Other 
benefits are more quantifiable and are derived from the reduction of 
the number of fatal and serious accidents that occur in marginal 
weather conditions. The estimated reduction in the number of accidents 
is due to the increased level of safety afforded pilots that fly IFR. 
These benefits are classified as quantitative.

Qualitative Benefits

    Due to the lack of feasible alternatives to VFR, during periods of 
marginal or inclement weather conditions, a helicopter operator often 
will forsake the IFR system because he or she is unable to meet the 
flight plan requirements and criteria for specifying an alternate 
airport. As such, the helicopter operator will fly either VFR or 
Special VFR at lower altitudes. By flying at lower altitudes, third 
party costs (increased level of aircraft noise), are experienced by 
individuals on the ground.
    All noise has the potential to annoy because of interference with 
speech, sleep, work, or other activities; however, aircraft noise is a 
function of aircraft altitude, and noise or sound energy can be reduced 
by increasing the flight altitude. Therefore, by providing the 
opportunity to increase the altitude of a helicopter's flight during 
IMC (instrument meteorological conditions), the proposed rule would 
help to reduce

[[Page 46839]]

the sound energy on the ground generated by that helicopter. For 
example, if a helicopter flying VFR at 250 feet above ground level 
(AGL) in marginal weather conditions is able to fly IFR at 4,000 feet 
AGL in the same marginal weather conditions, the reduction in sound 
energy is 24 dB, which represents a decrease to less than one-hundredth 
the level of sound intensity experienced by third parties on the 
ground.
    Another benefit of this NPRM that is difficult to quantify is 
reducing the opportunity cost of upper management time. Opportunity 
cost is a forward-looking view of costs that are forgone by not putting 
a firm's resources to its highest use. Due to the high level of concern 
many companies have regarding the safety of their senior executives, 
the safe operation of their corporate helicopter receives a high 
priority. As such, during periods of marginal or adverse weather 
conditions most corporate operations are canceled rather than attempt 
to fly VFR under those conditions. A portion of the opportunity cost 
can be measured by the lost productivity associated with the extra time 
involved by senior executives using alternate forms of transportation, 
such as automobiles. With the average annual chief executive 
compensation at $2.3 million, an hour delay could amount to as much as 
$1,100, not including the salaries of other senior executives traveling 
with the chief executive, or the cost of the helicopter and pilot 
sitting idle due to marginal or adverse weather conditions. By enabling 
more helicopter pilots to operate under IFR in marginal weather 
conditions, these opportunity costs could be avoided.

Quantitative Benefits

    The quantitative benefits of this proposed rulemaking are derived 
from a potential reduction in weather-related accidents. Weather-
related accidents are a common, serious type of accident experienced by 
helicopter operators, but this type of accident can be prevented by 
enhanced helicopter operator access into the IFR system. The FAA 
believes that the proposed rule will result in a level of safety 
equivalent to the current rule and offer greater operational 
flexibility for helicopter operators. The FAA bases this on the U.S. 
Army's experience of no mishaps over the past 16 years associated with 
weather planning criteria resulting from reduced helicopter ceiling and 
visibility minima for IFR flight planning.
    In this analysis, the FAA used data involving helicopter accidents 
where weather was a cause or factor over a 10-year period from 1987 to 
1996. The data used was obtained from the National Transportation 
Safety Board (NTSB) database. The most recent accidents that occurred 
in 1997 are still under review, and thus no data from 1997 is used in 
this analysis.
    Since 1987, there have been a total of 275 helicopter accidents 
where weather was a cause or factor of the accident. The total includes 
202 accidents involving VFR flight without a flight plan filed, 68 
accidents where a VFR flight plan was filed, and five accidents where a 
IFR flight plan was filed. The 202 accidents involving VFR flight is 
approximately 40 times greater than the five accidents that occurred 
under an IFR flight plan. In addition, the 68 accidents where VFR 
flight plans were filed is approximately 14 times greater than the five 
in IFR operation. When the 202 accidents are added to the 68 accidents, 
the result is a total of 270 accidents, which represents approximately 
98 percent of all the accidents that occurred when weather was a cause 
or factor. These statistics suggest the potential safety benefits of 
flying IFR in IMC.
    Of all helicopter flights flown, approximately 10 percent are 
performed under an IFR flight plan. As such, the number of accidents 
flying IFR would be expected to be approximately 10 percent of the 
total accidents, or 28 accidents. However, of the 275 helicopter 
accidents where weather was a cause or factor of the accident, instead 
of 28 accidents, only five accidents occurred under an IFR flight plan. 
Because the actual number of accidents (five) is approximately 18 
percent of the expected number of accidents (28), this information 
suggests that IFR flight is safer than VFR flight when marginal weather 
conditions are present.
    When the fatalities sustained while flying with no flight plan (74) 
are added to the fatalities sustained while flying with a VFR flight 
plan (63), the result is 137 fatal injuries. That represents a fatality 
rate more than five times the 27 fatal injuries sustained under an IFR 
flight plan. Similarly, when serious injuries sustained while flying 
with no flight plan (32) are added to the serious injuries sustained 
while flying with a VFR flight plan (24), the result is 56, compared to 
only one serious injury sustained in IFR flight. In aggregate, the 
fatal and serious injuries that occurred when no IFR flight plan was 
filed is approximately seven times those that occurred under an IFR 
flight plan. The FAA is aware that even though weather was a cause or 
contributing factor in all of these accidents, this proposed rulemaking 
would not have prevented all of these accidents or injuries; however, 
the data suggest that IFR flight is safer than VFR flight when marginal 
weather conditions are present.
    In 16 of the 270 accidents involving VFR flight, in addition to 
weather being a cause or contributing factor, the pilot-in-command had 
instrument ratings for helicopters, or for helicopters and airplanes. 
Although the weather minima for the destination airport is not known, 
the FAA believes that with the revised weather minima provided by the 
proposal, the pilots with instrument ratings could have taken advantage 
of positive air traffic control services (such as obstacle avoidance) 
and flown IFR. However, due to the uncertainty regarding the weather at 
the destination airports, the FAA recognizes that all 16 of these 
accidents may not have been avoided. Therefore, the FAA applied the 
same percentage described above regarding the expected and actual 
accidents under IFR (5/28  18%) where weather was a cause or 
factor of the accident and determined that three of the 16 accidents 
(16  x  18%  3) would not have been avoided if this proposed 
rulemaking had been in effect.
    To determine the potential benefits that would result from this 
proposed rule, the FAA estimated the average costs associated with all 
the injuries and fatalities sustained in the 16 accidents involving VFR 
flight where the pilot-in-command had instrument ratings for 
helicopters. A critical economic value of $2.7 million and $518,000 was 
applied to each human fatality and serious injury, respectively. This 
computation resulted in an estimate of approximately $53 million in 
casualty costs. Also, the value of the destroyed aircraft was estimated 
to be $7 million. If this rulemaking helps prevent 80 percent of these 
injuries and fatalities that resulted from 16 accidents, the expected 
potential safety benefits over the next 10 years would be approximately 
$48 million ($34 million, discounted).

Costs

    The proposed rule would not impose any additional equipment, 
training, or other cost to the aviation industry. Therefore, the FAA 
believes there is no apparent compliance cost associated with the 
proposed rule. However, the FAA solicits comments regarding the 
plausibility and extent of the adverse impacts on operators from 
implementation of the proposed rule.

Comparison of Costs and Benefits

    The NPRM would not place any additional requirements on the 
aviation industry. Therefore, there are no compliance costs associated 
with the

[[Page 46840]]

proposed rule. Qualitative benefits from the proposed rule would come 
from reducing the level of aircraft noise experienced by individuals on 
the ground and from cost savings associated with reducing 
transportation time for high-level corporate executives. The 
quantitative benefits come from a potential reduction in accidents by 
enabling more helicopter pilots to operate under IFR in marginal 
weather conditions. Over the next 10 years, the estimated safety 
benefit of the proposed rule could be $48 million, or $34 million, 
present value. Therefore, the FAA has determined that the proposed rule 
is cost beneficial.

V. Initial Regulatory Flexibility Assessment

    The Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 (RFA), as amended, was 
enacted by Congress to ensure that small entities are not unnecessarily 
and disproportionately burdened by Government regulations. The RFA 
requires that whenever an agency publishes a general notice of proposed 
rulemaking, an initial regulatory flexibility analysis identifying the 
economic impact on small entities, and considering alternatives that 
may lessen those impacts must be conducted if the proposed rule would 
have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities.
    This proposed rule will impact entities operating under 14 CFR part 
91. The FAA believes there is no compliance cost associated with the 
proposed rule. Therefore, the FAA certifies that this proposed rule 
will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of 
small entities; however, the FAA solicits comments from operators that 
feel they would be negatively impacted from implementation of the 
proposed rule.

VI. International Trade Impact Statement

    This proposed rule is not expected to impose a competitive 
disadvantage to either U.S. air carriers doing business abroad or 
foreign air carriers doing business in the United States. This 
assessment is based on the fact that this proposed rule would not 
impose additional costs on either U.S. or foreign air carriers. This 
proposal would have no effect on the sale of foreign aviation products 
or services in the United States, nor would it affect the sale of 
United States aviation products or services in foreign countries.

VII. Unfunded Mandates Reform Act Assessment

    Title II of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (the Act), 
enacted as Pub. L. 104-4 on March 22, 1995, requires each Federal 
agency, to the extent permitted by law, to prepare a written assessment 
of the effects of any Federal mandate in a proposed or final agency 
rule that may result in the expenditure by State, local, and tribal 
governments, in the aggregate, or by the private sector, of $100 
million or more (adjusted annually for inflation) in any one year. 
Section 204(a) of the Act, 2 U.S.C. 1534(a), requires the Federal 
agency to develop an effective process to permit timely input by 
elected officers (or their designees) of State, local, and tribal 
governments on a proposed ``significant intergovernmental mandate.'' A 
``significant intergovernmental mandate'' under the Act is any 
provision in a Federal agency regulation that would impose an 
enforceable duty upon State, local, and tribal governments, in the 
aggregate, of $100 million (adjusted annually for inflation) in any one 
year. Section 203 of the Act, 2 U.S.C. 1533, which supplements section 
204(a), provides that before establishing any regulatory requirements 
that might significantly or uniquely affect small governments, the 
agency shall have developed a plan that, among other things, provides 
for notice to potentially affected small governments, if any, and for a 
meaningful and timely opportunity to provide input in the development 
of regulatory proposals.
    This proposed rule does not contain any Federal intergovernmental 
or private sector mandate; therefore, the requirements of Title II of 
the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 do not apply.

VIII. Federalism Implications

    The proposed regulations would not have substantial direct effects 
on the states, on the relationship between the national government and 
the states, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among 
various levels of government. Thus, in accordance with Executive Order 
12612, it is determined that this proposed regulation would not have 
federalism implications warranting the preparation of a Federalism 
Assessment.

IX. Environmental Analysis

    FAA Order 1050.1D defines FAA actions that may be categorically 
excluded from preparation of a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) 
environmental assessment (EA) or environmental impact statement (EIS). 
In accordance with FAA Order 1050.1D, Appendix 4 paragraph 4(j), 
regulations, standards and exemptions (excluding those, which if 
implemented may cause a significant impact on the human environment) 
qualify for a categorical exclusion. The FAA proposes that this rule 
qualifies for a categorical exclusion because no significant impacts to 
the environment are expected to result from its finalization or 
implementation. In accordance with FAA Order 1050.1D, paragraph 32, the 
FAA proposes that there are no extraordinary circumstances warranting 
preparation of an environmental assessment for this proposed rule.
    It is expected that the proposed rule would increase the safety, 
but not change the number of helicopter operations conducted in the 
United States. In particular, changes in instrument flight rules (IFR) 
applied to helicopter flight requirements would result in helicopters 
flying at higher altitudes during instrument meteorological conditions 
(IMC) with less associated ground level noise. During visual 
meteorological conditions, helicopters are expected to continue to 
operate as they do currently under visual flight rules. These changes 
in operating rules pertaining to flight plans and fuel for flights by 
helicopters operating under IFR are not expected to result in any 
adverse environmental effects since there should be no adverse change 
in the noise levels currently experienced in the human and natural 
environment, and no adverse additional impacts on biological, cultural 
or aesthetic resources. Introduction of exotic species is not expected 
to be influenced by the proposed rule, and neither would air quality, 
freshwater supplies nor the practice of traditional belief systems in 
natural environments.
    Comments relating to the proposed categorical exclusion or to any 
environmental impacts that might result from adopting this rule are 
invited.

X. Paperwork Reduction Act

    In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 
3507 (d)), there are no requirements for information collection 
associated with this proposed rule.

List of Subjects

14 CFR Part 21

    Aircraft, Aviation safety, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements.

14 CFR Part 27

    Aircraft, Aviation safety.

[[Page 46841]]

14 CFR Part 29

    Aircraft, Aviation safety.

14 CFR Part 91

    Aircraft, Airports, Aviation safety.

The Proposed Amendment

    In consideration of the foregoing, the FAA proposes to amend parts 
21, 27, 29, and 91 of the Federal Aviation Regulations (14 CFR parts 
21, 27, 29, and 91) as follows:

PART 21--CERTIFICATION PROCEDURES FOR PRODUCTS AND PARTS

    1. The authority citation for part 21 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 42 U.S.C. 7572; 49 U.S.C. 106(g), 40105, 40113, 
44701-44702, 44707, 44709, 44711, 44713, 44715, 45303.


SFAR No. 29-4  [Removed]

    2. Part 21 is amended by removing Special Federal Aviation 
Regulation (SFAR) No. 29-4--Limited IFR Operations of Rotorcraft.

PART 27--AIRWORTHINESS STANDARDS: NORMAL CATEGORY ROTORCRAFT

    3. The authority citation for Part 27 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 49 U.S.C. 106(g), 40113, 44701-44702, 44704.


SFAR No. 29-4--Editorial note  [Removed]

    4. Part 27 is amended by removing the Editorial Note for Special 
Federal Aviation Regulation No. 29-4.

PART 29--AIRWORTHINESS STANDARDS: TRANSPORT CATEGORY ROTORCRAFT

    5. The authority citation for Part 29 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 49 U.S.C. 106(g), 40113, 44701-44702, 44704.


SFAR No. 29-4--Editorial note  [Removed]

    6. Part 29 is amended by removing the Editorial Note for Special 
Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) No. 29-4.

PART 91--GENERAL OPERATING AND FLIGHT RULES

    7. The authority citation for part 91 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 49 U.S.C. 106(g), 1156, 40103, 40113, 40120, 44101, 
44111, 44701, 44709, 44711, 44712, 44715, 44716, 44717, 44722, 
46306, 46315, 46316, 46504, 46506-46507, 47122, 47508, 47528-47531, 
articles 12 and 29 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation 
(61 stat. 1180).


SFAR No. 29-4  [Removed]

    8. Part 91 is amended by removing Special Federal Aviation 
Regulation (SFAR) No. 29-4.
    . Section 91.167 is revised to read as set forth below. The 
revision is displayed in two formats (all-narrative and partially 
tabular), each containing the same information, so the public can 
comment on which format is preferable.

Option 1--All-Narrative Format


Sec. 91.167  Fuel requirements for flight in IFR conditions.

    (a) No person may operate a civil aircraft in IFR conditions unless 
it carries enough fuel (considering weather reports and forecasts and 
weather conditions) to--
    (1) Complete the flight to the first airport of intended landing;
    (2) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, fly from 
that airport to the alternate airport; and
    (3) Fly after that for 45 minutes at normal cruising speed or, for 
helicopters, fly after that for 30 minutes at normal cruising speed.
    (b) Paragraph (a)(2) of this section does not apply if part 97 of 
this chapter prescribes a standard instrument approach procedure for 
the first airport of intended landing, and the weather reports or 
forecasts, or any combination of them, indicate the following:
    (1) For airplanes. For at least 1 hour before and for 1 hour after 
the estimated time of arrival, the ceiling will be at least 2,000 feet 
above the airport elevation and the visibility will be at least 3 
statute miles.
    (2) For helicopters. At the estimated time of arrival and for 1 
hour after the estimated time of arrival, the ceiling will be 1,000 
feet above the airport elevation, or 400 feet above the lowest approach 
minima, whichever is higher, and the visibility will be at least 2 
statute miles.

Option 2--Partially Tabular Format


Sec. 91.167  Fuel requirements for flight in IFR conditions.

    (a) No person may operate a civil aircraft in IFR conditions unless 
it carries enough fuel (considering weather reports and forecasts and 
weather conditions) to--
    (1) Complete the flight to the first airport of intended landing;
    (2) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, fly from 
that airport to the alternate airport; and
    (3) Fly after that for 45 minutes at normal cruising speed or, for 
helicopters, fly after that for 30 minutes at normal cruising speed.
    (b) Paragraph (a)(2) of this section does not apply if part 97 of 
this chapter prescribes a standard instrument approach procedure for 
the first airport of intended landing and the weather is as described 
in the following table:

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
     The weather reports and/or         Indicate that the ceiling                                               
     prevailing weather forecast                 will be                     And the visibility will be         
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
For airplanes: for at least one hour  At least 2000 feet above      At least 3 statute miles.                   
 before and for one hour after the     airport elevation.                                                       
 ETA.                                                                                                           
For helicopters: at the ETA and for   At least 1000 feet above      At least 2 statute miles.                   
 one hour after the ETA.               airport elevation, or 400                                                
                                       feet above the lowest                                                    
                                       approach minima, whichever                                               
                                       is higher.                                                               
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    10. Section 91.169 is amended by revising paragraphs (a), (b), and 
(c) to read as set forth below. The revisions are displayed in two 
formats (all-narrative and partially tabular), each containing the same 
information, so the public can comment on which format is preferable.

Option 1--All-Narrative Format


Sec. 91.169  IFR flight plan: Information required.

    (a) Information required. Unless otherwise authorized by ATC, each 
person filing an IFR flight plan shall include in it the following 
information:
    (1) Information required under Sec. 91.153(a) of this part;
    (2) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, an 
alternate airport.
    (b) Paragraph (a)(2) of this section does not apply if part 97 of 
this chapter prescribes a standard instrument approach procedure for 
the first airport of intended landing and the weather reports or 
forecasts, or any combination of them, indicate the following:
    (1) For airplanes. For at least 1 hour before and for 1 hour after 
the estimated time of arrival, the ceiling will be at least 2,000 feet 
above the airport

[[Page 46842]]

elevation and the visibility will be at least 3 statute miles.
    (2) For helicopters. At the estimated time of arrival and for 1 
hour after the estimated time of arrival, the ceiling will be at least 
1,000 feet above the airport elevation, or 400 feet above the lowest 
approach minima, whichever is higher, and the visibility will be at 
least 2 statute miles.
    (c) IFR alternate airport weather minima. Unless otherwise 
authorized by the Administrator, no person may include an alternate 
airport in an IFR flight plan unless current weather forecasts indicate 
that, at the estimated time of arrival at the alternate airport, the 
ceiling and visibility at that airport will be at or above the 
following alternate weather minima:
    (1) If an instrument approach procedure has been published in part 
97 of this chapter for that airport, the alternate airport minima 
specified in that procedure, or
    (2) If an instrument approach procedure has been published in part 
97 of this chapter for that airport, but that procedure contains no 
alternate airport weather minima, the following apply:
    (i) For airplanes using--
    (A) A precision approach procedure. The ceiling will be 600 feet 
and the visibility will be 2 statute miles.
    (B) A nonprecision approach procedure. The ceiling will be 800 feet 
and the visibility will be 2 statute miles.
    (ii) For helicopters using--
    (A) A precision approach procedure. The ceiling will be 400 feet 
and the visibility will be 1 statute mile, but never lower than the 
published minima for the approach to be flown.
    (B) A nonprecision approach procedure. The ceiling will be 600 feet 
and the visibility will be 1 statute mile, but never lower than the 
published minima for the approach to be flown.
    (3) If no instrument approach procedure has been published in part 
97 of this chapter for the alternate airport, the ceiling and 
visibility minima are those allowing descent from the MEA, approach, 
and landing under basic VFR.
* * * * *

Option 2--Partially Tabular Format


Sec. 91.169  IFR flight plan: Information required.

    (a) Information required. Unless otherwise authorized by ATC, each 
person filing an IFR flight plan shall include in it the following 
information:
    (1) Information required under Sec. 91.153(a) of this part;
    (2) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, an 
alternate airport.
    (b) Paragraph (a) (2) of this section does not apply if part 97 of 
this chapter prescribes a standard instrument approach procedure for 
the first airport of intended landing and the weather is as described 
in the following table:

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
     The weather reports and/or         Indicate that the ceiling                                               
     prevailing weather forecast                 will be                     And the visibility will be         
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
For airplanes: for at least one hour  At least 2000 feet above      At least 3 statute miles.                   
 before and for one hour after the     airport elevation.                                                       
 ETA.                                                                                                           
For helicopters: at the ETA and for   At least 1000 feet above      At least 2 statute miles.                   
 one hour after the ETA.               airport elevation, or 400                                                
                                       feet above the lowest                                                    
                                       approach minima, whichever                                               
                                       is higher.                                                               
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    (c) Unless otherwise authorized by the Administrator, no person may 
include an alternate airport in an IFR flight plan unless current 
weather forecasts indicate that, at the estimated time of arrival at 
the alternate airport, the ceiling and visibility at that airport will 
be as described in the following table:

------------------------------------------------------------------------
            The ceiling will be              And the visibility will be 
------------------------------------------------------------------------
   If the instrument approach procedure in part 97 contains alternate   
                             airport minima                             
------------------------------------------------------------------------
For airplanes and helicopters:                                          
    The alternate airport minimum           The alternate airport       
     specified in that procedure.            minimum specified in that  
                                             procedure.                 
------------------------------------------------------------------------
  If the instrument approach procedure in part 97 contains no alternate 
                             airport minima                             
------------------------------------------------------------------------
For an airplane precision approach:                                     
    600 feet..............................  2 statute miles.            
For an airplane non-precision approach:                                 
    800 feet..............................  2 statute miles.            
For a helicopter precision approach:                                    
    400 feet, but never lower than the      1 statute mile, but never   
     published minima for the approach.      lower than the published   
                                             minima for the approach.   
For a helicopter non-precision approach:                                
    600 feet, but never lower than the      1 statute mile, but never   
     published minima for the approach.      lower than the published   
                                             minima for the approach.   
------------------------------------------------------------------------
If there is no instrument approach procedure in part 97 for the airport 
------------------------------------------------------------------------
       The minima allowing descent from MEA , approach and landing under
        basic VFR .                                                     
------------------------------------------------------------------------

* * * * *
    Issued in Washington, DC, on August 28, 1998.
Richard O. Gordon,
Acting Director, Flight Standards Service.
[FR Doc. 98-23662 Filed 9-1-98; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-13-P