[Federal Register Volume 75, Number 196 (Tuesday, October 12, 2010)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 62639-62674]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2010-24862]



[[Page 62639]]

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Part II





Department of Transportation





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Federal Aviation Administration



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14 CFR Parts 1, 91, 120, and 135



Air Ambulance and Commercial Helicopter Operations, Part 91 Helicopter 
Operations, and Part 135 Aircraft Operations; Safety Initiatives and 
Miscellaneous Amendments; Proposed Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 75 , No. 196 / Tuesday, October 12, 2010 / 
Proposed Rules

[[Page 62640]]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Aviation Administration

14 CFR Parts 1, 91, 120, and 135

[Docket No. FAA-2010-0982; Notice No. 10-13]
RIN 2120-AJ53


Air Ambulance and Commercial Helicopter Operations, Part 91 
Helicopter Operations, and Part 135 Aircraft Operations; Safety 
Initiatives and Miscellaneous Amendments

AGENCY: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM).

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SUMMARY: This proposed rule addresses air ambulance and commercial 
helicopter operations, part 91 helicopter operations, and load manifest 
requirements for all part 135 aircraft. From 2002 to 2008, there has 
been an increase in fatal helicopter air ambulance accidents. To 
address these safety concerns, the FAA is proposing to implement 
operational procedures and require additional equipment on board 
helicopter air ambulances. Many of these proposed requirements 
currently are found in agency guidance publications and would address 
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) safety recommendations. 
Some of these safety concerns are not unique to the helicopter air 
ambulance industry and affect all commercial helicopter operations. 
Accordingly, the FAA also is proposing to amend regulations pertaining 
to all commercial helicopter operations conducted under part 135 to 
include equipment requirements, pilot training, and alternate airport 
weather minima. The changes are intended to provide certificate holders 
and pilots with additional tools and procedures that will aid in 
preventing accidents.

DATES: Send your comments on or before January 10, 2011.

ADDRESSES: You may send comments identified by docket number FAA-2010-
0982 using any of the following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and follow the online instructions for sending your 
comments electronically.
     Mail: Send comments to Docket Operations, M-30; U.S. 
Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE., Room W12-
140, West Building Ground Floor, Washington, DC 20590-0001.
     Hand Delivery or Courier: Take comments to Docket 
Operations in Room W12-140 of the West Building Ground Floor at 1200 
New Jersey Avenue, SE., Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., 
Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.
     Fax: Fax comments to Docket Operations at 202-493-2251.
    For more information on the rulemaking process, see the 
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document.
    Privacy: We will post all comments we receive, without change, to 
http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information you 
provide. Using the search function of our docket web site, anyone can 
find and read the electronic form of all comments received into any of 
our dockets, including the name of the individual sending the comment 
(or signing the comment for an association, business, labor union, 
etc.). You may review DOT's complete Privacy Act Statement in the 
Federal Register published on April 11, 2000 (65 FR 19477-78) or you 
may visit http://DocketsInfo.dot.gov.
    Docket: To read background documents or comments received, go to 
http://www.regulations.gov at any time and follow the online 
instructions for accessing the docket, or, the Docket Operations in 
Room W12-140 of the West Building Ground Floor at 1200 New Jersey 
Avenue, SE., Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through 
Friday, except Federal holidays.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For technical questions concerning 
this proposed rule contact Edwin Miller, Flight Standards Service, Part 
135 Air Carrier Operations Branch, AFS-250, Federal Aviation 
Administration, 800 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20591; 
telephone (202) 267-8166; facsimile (202) 267-5229; e-mail 
[email protected].
    For legal questions concerning this proposed rule contact Dean 
Griffith, Office of the Chief Counsel, AGC-220, Federal Aviation 
Administration, 800 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20591; 
telephone (202) 267-3073; facsimile (202) 267-7971; e-mail 
[email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 
    Later in this preamble under the Additional Information section, we 
discuss how you can comment on this proposal and how we will handle 
your comments. Included in this discussion is related information about 
the docket, privacy, and the handling of proprietary or confidential 
business information. We also discuss how you can get a copy of related 
rulemaking documents.

Authority for This Rulemaking

    The FAA's authority to issue rules on aviation safety is found in 
Title 49 of the United States Code. This rulemaking is promulgated 
under the authority described in 49 U.S.C. 44701(a)(4), which requires 
the Administrator to promulgate regulations in the interest of safety 
for the maximum hours or periods of service of airmen and other 
employees of air carriers, and 49 U.S.C. 44701(a)(5), which requires 
the Administrator to promulgate regulations and minimum standards for 
other practices, methods, and procedures necessary for safety in air 
commerce and national security.

List of Terms and Acronyms Frequently Used in This Document

AC--Advisory Circular
ARC--Aviation Rulemaking Committee
CFIT--Controlled flight into terrain
CVR--Cockpit voice recorder
EMS--Emergency medical service
FDR--Flight data recorder
GPS--Global positioning system
HTAWS--Helicopter Terrain Awareness and Warning System
IFR--Instrument flight rules
IMC--Instrument meteorological conditions
LARS--Light-weight aircraft recording system
NM--Nautical mile
NTSB--National Transportation Safety Board
NVG--Night vision goggles
NVIS--Night-vision imaging system
SAFO--Safety Alert for Operators
TAWS--Terrain Avoidance and Warning System
TSO--Technical Standard Order
VFR--Visual flight rules
VMC--Visual meteorological conditions

Table of Contents

I. Executive Summary
II. Background
    A. Statement of the Problem
    B. Helicopter Air Ambulance Operations
    C. FAA Actions
    D. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Safety 
Recommendations
    E. Congressional Action
III. Discussion of the Proposal
    A. Helicopter Air Ambulance Operations
    1. Operational Procedures
    a. Part 135 Applicability (Sec.  135.1)
    b. Operations Control Centers (Sec.  135.617)
    c. VFR/IFR Procedures
    i. Increase VFR Weather Minima (Sec.  135.607)
    ii. IFR Operations at Airports and Heliports Without Weather 
Reporting (Sec.  135.609)
    iii. IFR to VFR/Visual Transitions (Sec.  135.611)
    iv. VFR Flight Planning (Sec.  135.613)
    d. Pre-Flight Risk Analysis (Sec.  135.615)
    e. Medical Personnel Pre-Flight Briefing (Sec.  135.619)
    2. Equipment Requirements
    a. Helicopter Terrain Awareness and Warning Systems (HTAWS) 
(Sec.  135.605)
    b. Light-Weight Aircraft Recording System (LARS)

[[Page 62641]]

    3. Pilot Requirements
    a. Instrument Rating (Sec.  135.603)
    b. Flight and Duty Time Limitations (Sec. Sec.  135.267 and 
135.271)
    B. Commercial Helicopter Operations (Including Air Ambulance 
Operations)
    1. Operational Procedures
    a. IFR Alternate Airport Weather Minima (Sec.  135.221)
    2. Equipment Requirements
    a. Radio Altimeter (Sec.  135.160)
    b. Safety Equipment for Over-Water Flights (Sec. Sec.  1.1, 
135.167, and 135.168)
    3. Training--Recovery From Inadvertent Flight Into IMC (Sec.  
135.293)
    C. Miscellaneous
    1. Part 91 Weather Minima (Sec.  91.155)
    2. Load Manifest Requirements for all Part 135 Aircraft (Sec.  
135.63)
IV. Paperwork Reduction Act
V. International Compatibility
VI. Regulatory Evaluation, Regulatory Flexibility Determination, 
International Trade Impact Assessment, and Unfunded Mandates 
Assessment
VII. Executive Order 13132, Federalism
VIII. Regulations Affecting Intrastate Aviation in Alaska
IX. Environmental Analysis
X. Regulations That Significantly Affect Energy Supply, 
Distribution, or Use
XI. Availability of Rulemaking Documents
XII. Additional Information
Appendix to the Preamble--Additional Accident Discussions
The Proposed Amendment

I. Executive Summary

    This NPRM proposes requirements for all part 135 aircraft, part 91 
helicopter operations, and air ambulance and commercial helicopter 
operations. The proposal aims to address safety concerns arising from 
an increase in air ambulance related fatalities from 2002 to 2008.
    As described in further detail throughout this document, the NPRM 
proposes the following requirements:

------------------------------------------------------------------------
      Affected entities                         Proposal
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Part 135--All Aircraft.......   Permit operators to 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.
Part 91--Helicopter             Revision of part 91 Visual
 Operations.                    Flight Rules (VFR) weather minimums.
All Commercial Helicopter       Revision of commercial
 Operations (Operating          helicopter instrument flight rules (IFR)
 Requirements).                 alternate airport weather minimums.
                                Require helicopter pilots to
                                demonstrate competency in recovery from
                                inadvertent instrument meteorological
                                conditions.
                                Require all commercial
                                helicopters to be equipped with radio
                                altimeters.
                                Change definition of ``extended
                                over-water operation,'' and require
                                additional equipment for these
                                operations.
Air Ambulance Operations        Require air ambulance flights
 (Operating Requirements and    with medical personnel on board to be
 Equipage).                     conducted under part 135, including
                                flight crew time limitation and rest
                                requirements.
                                Require certificate holders with
                                10 or more helicopter air ambulances to
                                establish operations control centers.
                                Require helicopter air ambulance
                                certificate holders to implement pre-
                                flight risk-analysis programs.
                                Require safety briefings for
                                medical personnel on helicopter air
                                ambulances.
                                Amend helicopter air ambulance
                                operational requirements to include VFR
                                weather minimums, IFR operations at
                                airports/heliports without weather
                                reporting, procedures for VFR
                                approaches, and VFR flight planning.
                                Require pilots in command to
                                hold an instrument rating.
                                Require equipage with Helicopter
                                Terrain Awareness and Warning Systems
                                (HTAWS), and possibly light-weight
                                aircraft recording systems (LARS).
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In aggregate, the FAA estimates the mean present value of the total 
monetizable costs of these proposals (over 10 years, 7% discount rate) 
to be $225 million, with a range of total monetizable benefits from $83 
million to $1.98 billion (over 10 years, 7% discount rate).
    The table below summarizes the present value range of total 
aggregate monetizable costs and benefits the FAA estimates as a result 
of this rule:

------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Summary of monetizable costs    Range (in millions) (over 10 years, 7%
       and benefits \1\                      discount rate)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Air Ambulance................  $62 to $1,500.
Commercial...................  $21 to $480.
                              ------------------------------------------
    Total Benefits...........  $83 to $1,980.
Air Ambulance................  $136.
Commercial...................  $89.
                              ------------------------------------------
    Total Costs..............  $225.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The FAA requests comments on the analysis underlying these 
estimates, as well as possible approaches to reduce the costs of this 
rule while maintaining or increasing the benefits. While the FAA has 
concluded that the aggregate benefits justify the aggregate costs, 
under some scenarios, the monetizable benefits may fall short of the 
monetizable costs. The FAA seeks comments on possible changes or 
flexibilities that might improve the rule.
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    \1\ ``Air ambulance'' applies to helicopter air ambulance 
operations. ``Commercial'' applies to all part 135 aircraft 
operations, excluding helicopter air ambulance operations.
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II. Background

A. Statement of the Problem

    The helicopter air ambulance industry experienced a significant 
increase in fatal accidents in 2008, making it the deadliest year on 
record for the industry. During that year, six accidents claimed 24 
lives, including those of

[[Page 62642]]

pilots, patients, and medical personnel. In addition, there were three 
non-fatal accidents in 2008. However, helicopter air accidents were not 
confined to 2008. From 1992 through 2009, there were 135 helicopter air 
ambulance accidents, including one midair collision with another 
helicopter engaged in an air ambulance operation. These helicopter air 
ambulance accidents resulted in 126 fatalities. In a 2009 report, the 
U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recognized that air 
ambulance accidents reached historic levels from 2003 through 2008.\2\
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    \2\ GAO, Aviation Safety: Potential Strategies to Address Air 
Ambulance Safety Concerns (2009).
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    Helicopter accidents, however, have not been limited to the air 
ambulance industry. The FAA identified 75 commercial helicopter 
accidents, occurring from 1994 through 2008 with causal factors that 
are addressed in this proposal. These accidents involving commercial 
helicopter operations resulted in 88 fatalities. These accidents do not 
include the helicopter air ambulance accidents discussed above.
    After reviewing the accident data, the FAA identified controlled 
flight into terrain (CFIT), loss of control (LOC), inadvertent flight 
into instrument meteorological conditions (IMC), and accidents during 
night conditions as four common factors in helicopter air ambulance 
accidents. A review of commercial helicopter accidents also 
demonstrated that these accidents may have been prevented if pilots and 
helicopters were better equipped for encounters with inadvertent flight 
into IMC, flat-light,\3\ whiteout,\4\ and brownout \5\ conditions, and 
for flights over water. The FAA also determined that enhancements to 
safety equipment for over-water operations and establishing more 
stringent instrument flight rules (IFR) alternate airport weather 
minima would enhance the safety of all part 135 helicopter operations.
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    \3\ The NTSB describes flat-light conditions in NTSB Safety 
Recommendation A-02-33 as ``the diffuse lighting that occurs under 
cloudy skies especially when the ground is snow covered. Under flat 
light conditions, there are no shadows cast, and the topography of 
snow-covered surfaces is impossible to judge. Flat light greatly 
impairs a pilot's ability to perceive depth, distance, altitude, or 
topographical features when operating under visual flight rules 
(VFR).''
    \4\ AC 00-6A, Aviation Weather for Pilots and Flight Operations 
Personnel, describes whiteout conditions as a ``visibility 
restricting phenomenon that occurs in the Arctic when a layer of 
cloudiness of uniform thickness overlies a snow or ice-covered 
surface. Parallel rays of the sun are broken up and diffused when 
passing through the cloud layer so that they strike the snow surface 
from many angles. The diffused light then reflects back and forth 
countless times between the snow and the cloud eliminating all 
shadows. The result is a loss of depth perception.''
    \5\ Brownout conditions occur when sand or other particles 
restrict visibility and depth perception.
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    Prior to developing this proposed rule, the FAA undertook 
initiatives to address the common factors that contribute to helicopter 
air ambulance accidents including issuing notices, handbook bulletins, 
operations specifications, and advisory circulars (ACs); this proposed 
rule would codify many of these initiatives.
    Additionally, this proposal addresses National Transportation 
Safety Board (NTSB) safety recommendations and recommendations made by 
the Part 125/135 Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) concerning 
helicopter air ambulance and commercial helicopter operations. This 
includes a proposal to adopt amendments to load manifest requirements 
for single-engine part 135 operations, consistent with an NTSB Safety 
Recommendation developed in response to a 1997 accident.

B. Helicopter Air Ambulance Operations

    The helicopter air ambulance industry is relatively young but has 
experienced rapid growth during its existence. The industry's evolution 
has not produced a uniform model of operations; rather certificate 
holders vary in size and scope of operations. In addition, as discussed 
below, helicopter air ambulance operations present unique challenges 
meriting regulation beyond that traditionally applied to part 135 
commercial helicopter operations.
    Helicopter air medical transportation was first used prominently 
during the Korean War to move injured soldiers from the battlefield. 
Since then, helicopters have been used to transport critically injured 
patients and donor organs to hospitals because of their capability to 
provide rapid transportation over long distances from remote locations. 
The first commercial helicopter air ambulance program began operation 
in 1972. The industry grew significantly in the 1980s, and is 
continuing to grow.\6\ Between 2003 and 2008, the Association of Air 
Medical Services reported a 54 percent increase in the number of 
helicopters used by its members in helicopter air ambulance 
operations.\7\ The NTSB estimates that 400,000 patients and transplant 
organs are now transported by helicopter each year.\8\
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    \6\ National Transportation Safety Board: Safety Study--
Commercial Emergency Medical Service Helicopter Operations, NTSB/SS-
88/01 (Jan. 28, 1988), available at http://www.ntsb.gov/Dockets/Aviation/DCA09SH001/410702.pdf.
    \7\ See GAO, Aviation Safety: Potential Strategies to Address 
Air Ambulance Safety Concerns 4 (2009).
    \8\ Testimony of the Hon. Robert L. Sumwalt, III, Board Member 
NTSB, Before the Subcommittee on Aviation, Committee on 
Transportation and Infrastructure, U.S. House of Representatives, 
April 22, 2009, available at http://transportation.house.gov/hearings/hearingDetail.aspx?NewsID=865; transcript URL: http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=111_house_hearings&docid=f:49001.pdf.
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    As of February 2009, the FAA authorized 74 certificate holders to 
conduct helicopter air ambulance operations. These certificate holders 
operate approximately 850 helicopters in air ambulance operations. The 
size of these operations varies greatly. The smallest operators only 
have one or two helicopters and operate in one region; the largest 
operators may have hundreds of helicopters across the United States. Of 
the 50 largest certificate holders operating under part 121 or 135, as 
measured by the number of aircraft operated, six conduct helicopter air 
ambulance operations. The tenth largest air carrier in the United 
States, Air Methods Corporation, is a helicopter air ambulance 
operator.
    The following is a breakdown of the number of helicopter air 
ambulances operated by the 74 certificate holders permitted to conduct 
helicopter air ambulance operations as of February, 2009: 38 
certificate holders have 5 or fewer helicopters; 14 certificate holders 
have 6 to 10 helicopters; 6 certificate holders have 11 to 15 
helicopters; and 16 certificate holders have more than 16 helicopters.
    Certificate holders' air ambulance programs and operational 
practices vary as to whether they conduct IFR or VFR operations, 
perform formal pre-flight risk analyses, or use operations control 
centers. In addition, certificate holders equip their helicopters 
differently. For example, some helicopters are permanently configured 
for full-time air ambulance operations while others are not; some are 
equipped for IFR operations while others are equipped for VFR-only 
operations; and helicopter air ambulances have varying situational-
awareness technology (such as night vision goggles, HTAWS, radio 
altimeters, etc.) on board.
    Helicopter air ambulance operations present several unique 
operating characteristics that make them distinct from other types of 
part 135 helicopter operations. Such operations are often time-
sensitive and crucial to getting a critically ill or injured patient to 
a medical facility as efficiently as possible, which may influence 
flight crews to fly under circumstances that they otherwise would not. 
In addition,

[[Page 62643]]

these operations often are conducted under challenging conditions. For 
example, helicopter air ambulances operate generally at low altitudes 
and under varied weather conditions. Operations are conducted year-
round, in rural and urban settings, in mountainous and non-mountainous 
terrain, during the day and at night, and in IFR and visual 
meteorological conditions (VMC). Remote-site landings pose additional 
challenges. These remote sites are often unfamiliar to a pilot and, 
unlike an airport or heliport, may contain hazards such as trees, 
buildings, towers, wires, and uneven terrain. Additionally, in an 
emergency, patients cannot choose which operator provides 
transportation, and because of their injuries, may not be able to 
participate in the decision to use helicopter transport. These patients 
are often transported by the first company to accept the flight 
assignment from an emergency medical service dispatcher. The FAA 
believes that these individuals should therefore be afforded the 
protection of an enhanced regulation for helicopter air ambulances.
    As described in the section below, the FAA has taken steps through 
non-regulatory means to improve helicopter air ambulance safety; 
however, in consideration of the industry's accident history, 
characteristics unique to helicopter air ambulance operations, and the 
lack of standardization among certificate holders' practices, the FAA 
believes that additional regulations are necessary to ensure the safety 
of these flights.

C. FAA Actions

    In response to the increasing number of accidents involving 
helicopter air ambulances, the FAA has developed standards over the 
years for weather minima and for helicopter terrain awareness and 
warning systems (HTAWS), and formalized dispatch procedures. In 
addition, the FAA has issued guidance for operational improvements in 
areas that address Crew Resource Management (CRM), CFIT, inadvertent 
flight into IMC, operational control, improved access to weather 
information, risk management, improvement of organizational safety 
culture, and aeronautical decisionmaking skills. The following provides 
a summary of many of the actions taken by the FAA.
    On April 8, 2003, the FAA formed the Part 125/135 ARC to perform a 
comprehensive review of parts 125 and 135 and provide recommendations 
on rule changes. ARC members included aviation associations, industry 
representatives, employee groups, the FAA, and other participants to 
obtain a balance of views, interests, and expertise. The ARC made 
recommendations pertaining to helicopter air ambulance operations and 
other commercial helicopter operations that form the basis of several 
of the proposals in this NPRM, including equipping helicopters with 
radio altimeters, increasing weather minima for helicopter air 
ambulance operations, requiring additional safety equipment for over-
water operations, requiring pilot testing on recovery from inadvertent 
flight into IMC, and revising IFR alternate airport weather 
requirements.
    In August 2004, the FAA established a task force to review and 
guide government and industry efforts to reduce helicopter air 
ambulance accidents. The task force review of commercial helicopter air 
ambulance accidents for the period of January 1998 through December 
2004 revealed that CFIT, night operations, and inadvertent flight into 
IMC were the predominant factors contributing to those accidents.
    On January 28, 2005, the FAA issued Notice 8000.293, Helicopter 
Emergency Medical Services Operations, addressing CRM, adherence to 
procedures, and pilot decisionmaking skills in helicopter air ambulance 
operations. This notice was later incorporated into Safety Alert for 
Operators (SAFO) 06001, Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) 
Operations (Jan. 28, 2006). On August 1, 2005, the FAA issued Notice 
8000.301, Operational Risk Assessment Programs for Helicopter Emergency 
Medical Services, providing guidance on operational risk assessment 
programs, including training of flightcrews and medical personnel.
    In AC 00-64, Air Medical Resource Management, issued September 22, 
2005, the FAA recommended minimum guidelines for air medical resource 
management training for all air medical service operations team 
members, including pilots, maintenance personnel, medical personnel, 
communications specialists, and other air medical team members. In 
Notice 8000.307, Special Emphasis Inspection Program For Helicopter 
Emergency Medical Services, issued September 27, 2005, the FAA 
addressed a special emphasis inspection program for helicopter air 
ambulance operators, focusing on operational control, risk assessment, 
and training programs. On January 24, 2006, the FAA issued handbook 
bulletin HBAT 06-02, Helicopter Emergency Services (HEMS) Loss of 
Control (LOC) and Controlled Flight into Terrain (CFIT) Accident 
Avoidance Programs, to FAA inspectors describing acceptable models for 
LOC and CFIT accident avoidance programs.
    In January 2006, the FAA amended Operations Specification A021, 
which is issued to all certificate holders conducting helicopter air 
ambulance operations, to establish VFR weather requirements, including 
consideration of adverse effects of ambient lighting at night and 
mountainous terrain. Following the 2008 accidents, the FAA again 
amended Operations Specification A021 to address VFR weather 
requirements, applied those weather requirements to all flights with 
medical personnel on board, required a flight planning requirement, and 
allowed IFR approaches when a pilot could consult a weather reporting 
source within 15 miles of the landing location.
    In 2006, RTCA, Inc.,\9\ at the FAA's request, established a special 
committee to develop HTAWS standards. In December 2008, the FAA issued 
Technical Standard Order (TSO)-C194, Helicopter Terrain Awareness and 
Warning System (HTAWS), based on the minimum operational performance 
standards developed by the committee. This TSO establishes the 
technical baseline for the HTAWS requirement in this proposal.
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    \9\ RTCA, Inc. is a private, not-for-profit corporation that 
develops consensus-based recommendations regarding communications, 
navigation, surveillance, and air traffic management (CNS/ATM) 
system issues. RTCA, Inc. functions as a Federal Advisory Committee.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The FAA issued AC 120-96, Integration of Operations Control Centers 
into Helicopter Emergency Medical Services Operations (May 5, 2008), 
that provides guidance to certificate holders for establishing 
operations control and dispatch centers. The information in AC 120-96 
formed the foundation of this proposal's requirement for certain 
certificate holders to establish operations control centers.
    In 2008, through Notice 8900.57, Part 135 Helicopter Training 
Program and Manual Revisions, the FAA implemented several pilot 
training program revisions applicable to part 135 helicopter training 
programs in response to NTSB safety recommendations A-02-34 and A-02-
35, including procedures for mitigating and recovering from brownout, 
whiteout, and flat-light conditions.
    On January 12, 2009, through Notice 8900.63, Validation of HEMS 
Safety Initiatives, the FAA, in an effort to identify how well its 
voluntary programs had been accepted, surveyed the operators through 
their Principal Operations Inspectors. Survey results indicated that 94 
percent of the

[[Page 62644]]

operators had established risk-assessment programs, 89 percent had 
training in LOC and CFIT, 89 percent were using operations control 
centers, 41 percent were using terrain awareness and warning systems 
(TAWS), 11 percent were using flight data recorders (FDR), and 94 
percent were using radio altimeters.

D. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Safety Recommendations

    In 1988, the NTSB conducted a safety study of emergency medical 
service operations that examined 59 accidents.\10\ This study 
determined that the helicopter air ambulance accident rate was almost 
twice the estimated accident rate of non-scheduled part 135 helicopter 
air taxi operations, and were 3.5 times more likely to be fatal.\11\ 
The NTSB found reduced visibility to be the most common factor 
associated with such crashes.
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    \10\ Commercial Emergency Medical Service Helicopter Operations, 
Safety Study NTSB/SS-88/01 (Washington, DC: National Transportation 
Safety Board, 1988).
    \11\ Id. at 7.
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    In January 2006, the NTSB conducted a special investigation of 
emergency medical services operations and issued four recommendations 
to the FAA.\12\ These recommendations are discussed in sections 
III.A.1.a., III.A.1.b., III.A.1.d., III.A.2.a., and III.A.3.b.
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    \12\ NTSB, Special Investigation Report on Emergency Medical 
Services Operations (NTSB/SIR-06/01) (Jan. 25, 2006).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In February 2009, the NTSB held a public hearing on ``Helicopter 
Emergency Medical Services'' to examine the safety issues associated 
with these operations and gather testimony from government, operators, 
industry associations, manufacturers, and hospitals.\13\ In September 
2009, the NTSB issued a series of safety recommendations based on the 
findings of the February hearing. The recommendations that are 
addressed by this rulemaking are discussed in sections III.A.1.b., 
III.A.1.d., III.A.2.b., and III.B.3. The FAA has determined that the 
remaining September 2009 recommendations are not ready for rulemaking 
at this time.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \13\ NTSB, Public Hearing Summary, available at http://www.ntsb.gov/Events/Hearing-HEMS/HEMS_Summary.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The NTSB also made recommendations to public aircraft operators, 
the Federal Interagency Emergency Medical Services Committee, and the 
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Centers for Medicare & 
Medicaid Services.
    As a result of its investigations and studies, the NTSB identified 
several probable causes of helicopter accidents, such as spatial 
disorientation, lack of general awareness, loss of control, poor 
decision making, failure to maintain clearance of obstacles, inadequate 
planning, and improper execution of standard operating procedures.
    NTSB safety recommendations addressed by this rulemaking include 
the following:
Recommendations on Helicopter Air Ambulance Operations
    A-06-12: Recommends that the FAA require all emergency medical 
services operators to comply with 14 CFR part 135 operations 
specifications during the conduct of all flights with medical personnel 
on board. (Discussed in sections III.A.1.a. and III.A.3.b.)
    A-06-13: Recommends that the FAA require all emergency medical 
services operators to develop and implement flight-risk evaluation 
programs that include training all employees involved in the operation, 
procedures that support the systematic evaluation of flight risks, and 
consultation with others in emergency medical service (EMS) flight 
operations if the risks reach a predefined level. (Discussed in section 
III.A.1.d.)
    A-06-14: Recommends that the FAA require emergency medical services 
operators to use formalized dispatch and flight-monitoring procedures 
that include up-to-date weather information and assistance in flight 
risk assessment decisions. (Discussed in section III.A.1.b.)
    A-06-15: Recommends that the FAA require emergency medical services 
operators to install terrain awareness and warning systems on their 
aircraft and to provide adequate training to ensure that flight crews 
are capable of using the systems to safely conduct EMS operations. 
(Discussed in section III.A.2.a.)
    A-09-87: Recommends that the FAA develop criteria for scenario-
based helicopter emergency medical services pilot training that 
includes inadvertent flight into instrument meteorological conditions 
and hazards unique to helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) 
operations, and determine how frequently this training is required to 
ensure proficiency. (Discussed in section III.B.3.)
    A-09-89: Recommends that the FAA require helicopter air ambulance 
operators implement a safety management system program that includes 
sound risk management practices. (Discussed in sections III.A.1.b., 
III.A.1.d, and III.A.2.b.)
    A-09-90: Recommends that the FAA require helicopter air ambulance 
operators install flight data recording devices and establish a 
structured flight data monitoring program that reviews all available 
data sources to identify deviations from established norms and 
procedures and other potential safety issues. (Discussed in section 
III.A.2.b.)
    The FAA notes that the NTSB used the term ``emergency medical 
services operators'' or ``EMS operators'' in its recommendations. 
However, the FAA uses the term ``helicopter air ambulance operators'' 
in this proposed rulemaking. The FAA also notes that NTSB Safety 
Recommendations A-06-12 through A-06-14 addressed both fixed-wing and 
helicopter air ambulance operations. As previously noted, while some 
provisions of the proposal extend to other types of aircraft and 
commercial helicopter operations more broadly, the FAA is focusing 
largely on helicopter air ambulance safety in this rulemaking. Although 
this proposed rule primarily focuses on helicopter air ambulance 
safety, it also addresses additional NTSB recommendations, listed 
below.
Recommendations on Commercial Helicopter Operations
    A-02-33: Recommends that the FAA require all helicopter pilots who 
conduct commercial, passenger-carrying flights in areas where flat-
light or whiteout conditions routinely occur to possess a helicopter-
specific instrument rating and to demonstrate their competency during 
initial and recurrent 14 CFR 135.293 evaluation check rides. (Discussed 
in section III.B.3.)
    A-02-34: Recommends that the FAA require all commercial helicopter 
operators conducting passenger-carrying flights in areas where flat-
light or whiteout conditions routinely occur to include safe practices 
for operating in flat-light or whiteout conditions in their approved 
training programs. (Discussed in section III.B.3.)
    A-02-35: Recommends that the FAA require the installation of radio 
altimeters in all helicopters conducting commercial, passenger-carrying 
operations in areas where flat-light or whiteout conditions routinely 
occur. (Discussed in section III.B.2.a.)
    A-06-17: Recommends that the FAA require all rotorcraft operating 
under [14 CFR] parts 91 and 135 with a transport-category certification 
to be equipped with a cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and flight data 
recorder (FDR). (Discussed in section III.A.2.b.)
    A-07-87: Recommends that the FAA require all existing and new 
turbine-powered helicopters operating in the Gulf of Mexico and 
certificated with five or more seats to be equipped with externally 
mounted life rafts large

[[Page 62645]]

enough to accommodate all occupants. (Discussed in section III.B.2.b.)
    A-07-88: Recommends that the FAA require all offshore helicopter 
operators in the Gulf of Mexico provide their flight crews with 
personal flotation devices equipped with a waterproof, global-
positioning-system-enabled 406 megahertz personal locater beacon, as 
well as one other signaling device, such as a signaling mirror or 
strobe light. (Discussed in section III.B.2.b.)
Other Recommendations
    A-99-61: Recommends that the FAA amend recordkeeping requirements 
in Sec.  135.63(c) to apply to single-engine as well as multiengine 
aircraft. (Discussed in section III.C.2.)

E. Congressional Action

    Legislation has been introduced in both the House of 
Representatives and the Senate in the 111th Congress, and in earlier 
Congresses, addressing several of the issues raised in this rulemaking. 
In addition, on April 22, 2009, the House Transportation and 
Infrastructure's Subcommittee on Aviation held a hearing on oversight 
of helicopter medical services. The Subcommittee heard from a variety 
of government, industry, and public representatives who testified on 
the House helicopter air ambulance safety legislation, NTSB safety 
recommendations, and FAA actions to mitigate helicopter air ambulance 
accidents.

III. Discussion of the Proposal

    In determining how to improve the safety of helicopter air 
ambulance operations, as well as all other commercial helicopter 
operations, the FAA reviewed approximately 4,000 accidents that 
involved helicopters in the United States (excluding U.S. territories). 
Of those accidents, the FAA identified 75 commercial helicopter 
accidents and 127 helicopter air ambulance accidents that occurred 
between 1994 and 2008 with causal factors that are addressed in this 
proposal. The accidents involving commercial helicopter operations 
resulted in 88 fatalities, 29 serious injuries, and 42 minor injuries; 
28 (approximately 37 percent) involved one or more fatalities, and 47 
had no fatalities. The accidents involving helicopter air ambulance 
operations resulted in 126 fatalities, 50 serious injuries, and 42 
minor injuries; 46 (approximately 36 percent) involved one or more 
fatalities, and 81 had no fatalities. In addition to injuries and 
fatalities, there also was significant damage or complete hull loss for 
these accidents.
    A comparison of the accidents that occurred between 2000 and 2008 
reveals that there were 66 commercial helicopter accidents (including 
23 fatal accidents resulting in 65 fatalities) and 98 helicopter air 
ambulance accidents (including 35 fatal accidents resulting in 94 
fatalities) during that time. The percentage of fatalities between the 
two categories was essentially the same. Given the equivalent risk of 
fatality if involved in an accident, the FAA has determined that it 
must focus its efforts on reducing the higher risk of helicopter air 
ambulances being involved in an accident in the first place.
    This proposal, if adopted, would implement new regulations, and 
revise existing regulations, to address the causes and factors of 
commercial and helicopter air ambulance accidents identified by the FAA 
and the NTSB. The FAA notes that compliance dates of the proposed 
regulations would vary, as noted in discussions below. The FAA believes 
that many of the accidents reviewed could have been prevented if these 
proposals had been in place during this 19-year period.
    The FAA has also determined that the safety of commercial air 
operations could be enhanced by requiring a load manifest for all part 
135 operations and is proposing to amend its rules accordingly.

A. Helicopter Air Ambulance Operations

    The following provisions would apply to all helicopter air 
ambulance operations, conducted under part 135. These proposals include 
new operational and equipment requirements for these certificate 
holders. This rule does not address fixed-wing air ambulance 
operations. The FAA chose to focus on helicopter air ambulance 
operations because a predominance of the accidents involved helicopter 
air ambulances,\14\ and approximately 74 percent of the air ambulance 
fleet is composed of helicopters.\15\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \14\ 41 of the 55 air ambulance accidents highlighted by the 
NTSB in its 2006 Special Investigation Report involved helicopters. 
See NTSB, Special Investigation Report on Emergency Medical Services 
Operations, App'x B (2006).
    \15\ See GAO, Aviation Safety: Potential Strategies to Address 
Air Ambulance Safety Concerns 1 (2009).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

1. Operational Procedures
a. Part 135 Applicability (Sec.  135.1)
    The FAA is proposing to amend Sec.  135.1 to require that all 
helicopter air ambulance operations with medical personnel on board be 
conducted under the operating rules of part 135. This includes 
instances where the medical personnel are employees of the operator. 
The safety of helicopter air ambulance flights, including the welfare 
of the medical personnel and patients on those flights, would be 
increased if operators were required to comply with the more stringent 
part 135 rules.
    Helicopter air ambulance operations generally consist of two- or 
three-leg flights. Currently, the non-patient-carrying legs of those 
operations may be conducted under part 91 because certificate holders 
consider medical personnel on board the aircraft to be crewmembers and 
the non-patient transport legs to be positioning flights. This approach 
is consistent with current FAA guidance to inspectors, which notes that 
if medical personnel are crewmembers, they are not considered 
passengers, and that flights with only crewmembers on board may be 
conducted under part 91.\16\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \16\ Order 8900.1, vol. 4, chapter 5, section 4.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    However, the FAA notes that the primary purpose of having medical 
personnel on board helicopter air ambulance flights is to provide 
medical care to the patients being transported, and they ``cannot be 
expected to meaningfully participate in the decision-making process to 
enhance flight safety or to significantly contribute to operational 
control of the flight.'' \17\ Accordingly, the FAA believes these 
individuals should be afforded the same safety protections of part 135 
as those given to patients on board helicopter air ambulance flights.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \17\ NTSB, Special Investigation Report on Emergency Medical 
Services Operations (2006).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Air ambulance accidents have occurred during all phases of flight. 
The NTSB found that 35 of the 55 accidents it studied for its Special 
Investigation Report occurred during part 91 operations with medical 
personnel, but no patient, on board.\18\ The NTSB cited two examples of 
fatal accidents that may have been prevented if the operations had been 
conducted according to the weather minima contained in the part 135 
operations specifications issued to certificate holders conducting 
helicopter air ambulance operations in effect at the time of the 
investigation. The first accident, which took place in Salt Lake City, 
UT, in 2003, involved a helicopter air ambulance that crashed into 
terrain when weather conditions were below part 135 minima. The other 
accident occurred in Redwood Valley, CA, when a helicopter air 
ambulance crashed into mountainous terrain during high winds and heavy 
rain. The NTSB concluded

[[Page 62646]]

that air ambulance operations would be improved if required to operate 
under the part 135 operating rules and that the minimal contribution of 
medical personnel to the safe operation of air ambulance flights is not 
sufficient to justify operating under the less-stringent part 91 
requirements. Those accidents formed the basis for the NTSB Safety 
Recommendation A-06-12 that the FAA should require all air ambulance 
operators to comply with part 135 operations specifications while 
conducting flights with medical personnel on board. This proposal would 
implement that recommendation for helicopter air ambulance operators.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \18\ NTSB, Special Investigation Report on Emergency Medical 
Services Operations (2006).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The major differences between operations conducted under part 91 
and part 135 are the applicable weather minima and flightcrew rest 
requirements. The FAA acknowledges that these more stringent 
requirements may result in operators turning down air ambulance flights 
that would meet part 91 weather requirements but not part 135 weather 
requirements, or if the flight would put a flightcrew member over the 
maximum daily hours of flight time. Helicopter air ambulance operations 
are a form of air transportation, and the improvements in air 
transportation safety that would result from this proposal justifies 
the more stringent part 135 requirement. This proposal should not 
require helicopter air ambulance certificate holders to make major 
operational changes because their operations generally include a part 
135 leg on each flight. Nevertheless, the FAA calls for comments on 
measures that it could take to address this proposed rule's impact on 
the availability of air ambulance services.
    The FAA is proposing in Sec.  135.601 to define the term 
``helicopter air ambulance operation'' to clarify that helicopter air 
ambulance operations include more than just patient-transport legs. The 
definition would establish that any flight, including a positioning or 
repositioning flight, conducted for the purpose of transportation of 
patients or donor organs is a helicopter air ambulance flight, and 
clarify, through a non-exclusive list, the types of operations 
considered to be helicopter air ambulance operations. For example, a 
flight initiated for patient transport but terminated before patient 
pick up would be considered a helicopter air ambulance operation. 
However, maintenance, service flights for refueling, or training 
flights could still be conducted under part 91 when no medical 
personnel are on board.
    The FAA also is proposing to define the term ``medical personnel'' 
in Sec.  135.601 with language based on that found in AC 135-14A, with 
modifications. Unlike AC 135-14A, the proposed definition does not 
address the types of duties performed by medical personnel on the 
helicopter other than providing medical care. The proposal would not 
preclude medical personnel from participating in or assisting the pilot 
with certain duties (for example, reading checklists, tuning radios, 
and securing doors) as long as the individuals have been trained by the 
certificate holder in accordance with its FAA-approved training 
program. Additionally, the FAA notes that such medical personnel would 
not be considered to be performing safety-sensitive functions under 14 
CFR part 120 Industry Drug and Alcohol Testing Program, and would 
therefore not be required to undergo drug testing.
    Certificate holders would be required to comply with this provision 
by the effective date of the final rule.
b. Operations Control Centers (Sec.  135.617)
    The FAA is proposing to add Sec.  135.617 to require certificate 
holders with 10 or more helicopters engaged in helicopter air ambulance 
operations to establish operations control centers. Certificate holders 
would be required to staff these operations control centers with 
operations control specialists trained and equipped to communicate with 
pilots, advise pilots of weather conditions, and monitor the progress 
of each flight. Each certificate holder covered by this requirement 
would be responsible for establishing its own individual operations 
control center. Each certificate holder would be required to provide 
enough operations control specialists at each operations control center 
to ensure proper operational control of each flight.
    FAA regulations currently do not require helicopter air ambulance 
operators to have an operations control center. In 2008, the FAA issued 
AC 120-96, which provides recommendations to assist helicopter air 
ambulance operators with the development, implementation, and 
integration of an operations control center, and enhanced operational 
control procedures similar to those found in part 121. Members of the 
helicopter air ambulance industry have noted that the AC is a ``product 
of a survey of best practices in the air medical industry and gives 
guidance to other air medical services as to the benefits of this type 
of operation.'' \19\ In developing this proposal, the FAA sought to 
standardize operations control centers by codifying the concepts of AC 
120-96 into a framework appropriate for helicopter air ambulance 
operations. The FAA notes that a January 2009 FAA survey of inspectors 
with oversight of helicopter air ambulance operations showed that 89 
percent of helicopter air ambulance operators have voluntarily 
established some type of operations control center.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \19\ Statement from the Association of Air Medical Services, 
Helicopter Association International, and Air Medical Operators 
Association to the NTSB 14 (Jan. 13, 2009), available at http://www.ntsb.gov/Dockets/Aviation/DCA09SH001/default.htm.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The NTSB, in its 2006 Special Investigation Report on Emergency 
Medical Services Operations, identified the following four fatal 
accidents, which may have been prevented if formalized dispatch and 
flight-monitoring procedures had been in place.\20\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \20\ NTSB, Special Investigation Report on Emergency Medical 
Services Operations (NTSB/SIR-06/01) 7 (Jan. 25, 2006).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    (1) In a 2004 Pyote, TX, accident in which a helicopter air 
ambulance transporting a patient crashed into terrain while maneuvering 
in reduced-visibility conditions, the pilot was not aware of expected 
thunderstorm activity in the area because he did not obtain a weather 
briefing before departure.
    (2) In the 2003 Salt Lake City, UT, accident in which a helicopter 
air ambulance crashed into terrain when weather conditions were below 
part 135 minima, the operator's dispatcher encouraged the pilot to 
accept the flight in spite of the fact that another company had refused 
it because of low visibility conditions. The NTSB stated that a flight 
dispatcher with specific knowledge of flight requirements would likely 
have been able to more fully comprehend the importance of the other 
company's refusal, independently gathered and correctly interpreted 
pertinent weather information from all available sources, and provided 
appropriate advice to the pilot.
    (3) In a 2004 accident in Newberry, SC, a helicopter air ambulance 
collided with trees in poor weather conditions. Three flightcrews had 
declined the mission based on their awareness of unsafe weather 
conditions, specifically the presence of fog. A 911 dispatcher that 
communicated with the pilot did not inform the pilot that the other 
three flightcrews had declined the mission because of fog.
    (4) A helicopter air ambulance that crashed into mountainous 
terrain in 2004 in Battle Mountain, NV, was not reported overdue until 
approximately four hours after its departure. The flight crossed from 
one county to another, and 911 dispatch centers from the two

[[Page 62647]]

counties were not required to communicate with each other directly. 
Responsibility for initiating communications when crossing into another 
county dispatch center was placed on the pilot. Because the aircraft 
was not reported missing in a timely manner, the opportunity for 
potentially life-saving search and rescue operations was lost.
    The NTSB concluded that ``[f]ormalized dispatch and flight-
monitoring procedures, including a dedicated dispatcher with aviation-
specific knowledge and experience, would enhance the safety of 
emergency medical services flight operations by providing the pilot 
with consistent and critical weather information, assisting in go/no go 
decisions, and monitoring the flight's position.'' This resulted in 
NTSB Safety Recommendation A-06-14 that air ambulance operators be 
required to ``use formalized dispatch and flight-following procedures 
that include up-to-date weather information and assistance in flight 
risk assessment decisions.'' This proposal would address that safety 
recommendation.
    This proposed regulation, which would also partially address NTSB 
Safety Recommendation A-09-89 regarding the implementation of sound 
risk management practices, could contribute to a certificate holder's 
overall safety program because it would be a method of incorporating 
risk management practices into a company's flight operations. In 
particular, an operations control specialist would provide additional 
input on proposed operations and be able to monitor flights, 
potentially helping pilots avoid dangerous situations.
    Under this proposal, operations control specialists would perform 
the following functions: (1) Maintain two-way communications with 
pilots; \21\ (2) provide pilots with weather information to include 
current and forecasted weather along the planned route of flight; (3) 
monitor the flight progress; and (4) participate in pre-flight risk 
analysis.\22\ This proposal is intended to provide an additional 
measure to help prevent CFIT, loss of control, inadvertent flight into 
IMC, and accidents at night.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \21\ The FAA notes that this proposal is not intended to limit 
two-way communication between the operations control specialist and 
the pilot to traditional two-way radio communication. Rather, other 
means of communication, such as satellite phone or data link, also 
would be acceptable.
    \22\ See section III.A.1.d. of the preamble to this NPRM.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The FAA is proposing to require certificate holders with 10 or more 
air ambulance helicopters to establish operations control centers for 
several reasons. The FAA's analysis of current helicopter air ambulance 
operators shows that the vast majority of operations are conducted by 
operators with these larger fleets. The FAA's review of operations 
specifications issued to the 74 certificate holders authorized to 
conduct helicopter air ambulance operations shows that, as of February 
2009, there were 24 certificate holders with 10 or more helicopters in 
their fleets. Those certificate holders operated 620 of the 884 total 
helicopters in helicopter air ambulance operations. Additionally, the 
level of operational complexity and management detail required for safe 
operations is greater for certificate holders with 10 or more 
helicopter air ambulances.
    Although certificate holders with nine or fewer helicopter air 
ambulances are not covered by this provision, the FAA finds that the 
pre-flight risk analysis requirement proposed under Sec.  135.615 may 
provide a sufficient alternative for these operators because of their 
limited scope of operations.\23\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \23\ See section III.A.1.d. of the preamble to this NPRM.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The FAA requests comments on whether the requirement should be 
dependent on fleet size or number of operations conducted. The agency 
asks that comments be accompanied by data regarding the number of 
operations conducted by helicopter air ambulances and/or the typical 
number of hours flown per aircraft.
    The FAA is proposing in Sec.  135.617 to require the staffing of 
operations control centers with operations control specialists, rather 
than certificated aircraft dispatchers.\24\ The training program 
associated with FAA-certificated aircraft dispatcher licensing is 
primarily focused on large, fixed-wing, transport category aircraft 
operating under part 121. While aspects of this training, such as 
weather information and radio communication, are relevant to helicopter 
operations, this proposal is designed to permit certificate holders to 
create training programs directly applicable to helicopter air 
ambulance operations. Accordingly, the FAA sought to incorporate the 
more general elements of part 65-certificated aircraft dispatcher 
training into the proposed requirements for training operations control 
specialists. Although the FAA is not proposing to require formal 
certification of operations control specialists, it may consider formal 
FAA certification of these individuals in the future if appropriate.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \24\ Aircraft dispatchers, certificated under part 65, generally 
are employed by part 121 air carriers and specialize in scheduled 
air carrier transportation.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The FAA notes that certificate holders could be subject to 
enforcement action for using inadequately trained operations control 
specialists, or may be responsible for errors committed by an 
operations control specialist. Likewise, an operations control 
specialist also could be subject to enforcement action or civil 
penalties if he or she failed a drug test, functioned as an operations 
control specialist without completing training or passing examinations, 
or verified false entries on a pre-flight analysis worksheet.
    Certificate holders may want to hire certificated aircraft 
dispatchers, or others with general aviation or weather knowledge, to 
serve as operations control specialists. This proposal would allow a 
certificate holder to offer individuals with recent, relevant 
experience an initial training course that features a reduced number of 
hours of initial training, focusing on the certificate holder-specific 
training topics addressed below. A reduced training program would be 
permissible because of the knowledge these individuals have obtained 
through training for other positions that is applicable to the 
operations control specialist position. This benefit would be extended 
to the following persons with specific aviation-related training--(1) 
Military pilots, flight navigators, and meteorologists; (2) civilian 
pilots, flight engineers, meteorologists, air traffic controllers, and 
flight service specialists involved in air carrier operations; and (3) 
certificated aircraft dispatchers involved in part 121 operations. This 
provision is similar to 14 CFR 65.57, which permits individuals who 
have not graduated from an aircraft dispatcher school, but who have 
relevant aviation experience, to apply for an aircraft dispatcher 
certificate.
    In addition, with respect to the pre-flight risk analysis that 
would be required under this proposal for all helicopter air ambulance 
operations,\25\ the operations control specialist would ensure that the 
pilot completed the pre-flight risk analysis worksheet, confirm and 
verify the entries on the worksheet, and work with the pilot to 
mitigate any identified risk. The operations control specialist, along 
with the pilot in command, would be required to acknowledge in writing 
(by signing, initialing, or another method as defined in the 
certificate holder's operations manual) that the worksheet had been 
completed accurately. The FAA believes that the operations control 
specialist's

[[Page 62648]]

review of the risk assessment will provide an additional measure of 
safety to helicopter air ambulance flights. By signing the worksheet, 
the operations control specialist will be indicating that he or she 
agrees with the level of risk associated with that flight.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \25\ Id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Operations control specialists would be performing safety-sensitive 
functions such as providing pre-flight weather assessment, assisting 
with fuel planning, alternate airport weather minima, and communicating 
with pilots regarding operational concerns during flight. These duties 
are similar to those of an aircraft dispatcher, and therefore, 
operations control specialists would be subject to the restrictions on 
drug and alcohol use, and to a certificate holder's drug and alcohol 
testing program as described in 14 CFR part 120.
    To ensure operations control specialists are capable of performing 
safety-sensitive functions, Sec.  135.617 would require certificate 
holders to establish and implement an FAA-approved initial and 
recurrent training and testing program for operations control 
specialists. Operations control specialists would be required to 
undergo training and testing on-- (1) General aviation topics such as 
weather, navigation, flight-monitoring procedures, air traffic control 
procedures, aircraft systems, and aircraft limitations and performance; 
and (2) topics specific to each certificate holder, such as aviation 
regulations and operations specifications, crew resource management, 
and the local flying area. Initial training would address both the 
general aviation and certificate holder-specific topics. Recurrent 
training would focus on certificate holder-specific topics. The FAA 
believes that the certificate holder-specific topics are more likely to 
change from year to year than the more general topics, justifying a 
more frequent rate of testing.
    An individual would need to receive initial training and pass an 
FAA-approved written and practical test developed and given by the 
certificate holder before performing duties as an operations control 
specialist. An individual would not be able to continue as an 
operations control specialist unless he or she completed annual 
recurrent training and passed a written and practical test given by the 
certificate holder. The certificate holder would be responsible for 
maintaining records of the training and tests given to each operations 
control specialist for the duration of that individual's employment and 
for 90 days thereafter.
    This proposal also would establish daily duty periods for 
operations control specialists which are based on the part 121 aircraft 
dispatcher duty time requirement. A certificate holder could schedule 
an operations control specialist for a maximum of 10 consecutive hours 
of duty. If an operations control specialist's duty time exceeds 10 
hours in a 24-hour period, then the certificate holder would be 
required to provide at least 8 hours of rest before that individual's 
next duty period. Such a circumstance may occur if a flight monitored 
by the operations control specialist is not complete until after the 
end of his or her scheduled 10-hour duty period. The operations control 
specialist would be required to remain on duty until each flight he or 
she is monitoring is complete, until those flights have left the 
operations control specialist's jurisdiction, or until relieved by 
another operations control specialist. The certificate holder must 
provide adequate time at the beginning of a shift to allow the 
operations control specialist to become familiar with current and 
expected weather conditions for the area of operations. The certificate 
holder must also establish a checklist of the subjects to be discussed 
during shift changes. The checklist should contain subjects such as 
current and forecasted weather, helicopter maintenance status, 
helicopter operations in progress, and other relevant information. In 
addition to duty time limitations, this proposal would require that 
every 7 consecutive days, an operations control specialist be provided 
24 consecutive hours of rest.
    This requirement would take effect 2 years after the effective date 
of the final rule. The FAA believes that this would provide certificate 
holders with ample time to establish operations control centers, 
develop training and testing programs, and to hire and provide the 
estimated 80 hours of training required of operations control 
specialists.
    Although not specifically proposed here, the FAA seeks comment on 
whether to require operations control specialists to obtain a 
certificate of demonstrated proficiency from the FAA. The FAA is 
considering this requirement because it would enable the agency to 
suspend or revoke an operations control specialist's certificate of 
demonstrated proficiency, thereby ensuring that person could not 
continue to hold the operations control specialist position if his or 
her actions merited such a response. Individuals would not be permitted 
to serve as an operations control specialist without obtaining a 
certificate of demonstrated proficiency.
    It the FAA were to adopt this approach, the agency anticipates that 
it would issue a certificate of demonstrated proficiency to an 
individual upon notification by a certificate holder that the 
individual has successfully completed the certificate holder's FAA-
approved initial training and testing requirements. Anticipating that 
there may be a period of time between notification and issuance of a 
certificate of demonstrated proficiency, the FAA would permit a person 
to serve as an operations control specialist from the date the 
certificate holder notifies the FAA that the person has met the 
training and testing requirements.
    Certificates of demonstrated proficiency would be valid for the 
length of time that an operations control specialist works for a 
certificate holder. If a certificated operations control specialist 
were to leave one certificate holder to work for another, he or she 
would need to obtain a new certificate following completion of the new 
employer's training and testing program.
    In the full Regulatory Evaluation in the public docket for this 
rulemaking, the FAA estimates that the proposed requirement for 
certificate holders with 10 or more helicopters engaged in helicopter 
air ambulance operations to establish operations control centers could 
cost $97 million or $60 million present value to implement over 10 
years. The FAA specifically requests comments, accompanied by data, on 
the accuracy of this cost estimate. In addition, the agency requests 
comments on how effective this requirement would be in preventing 
accidents, as well as suggested alternatives for achieving comparable 
safety benefits.
c. VFR/IFR Procedures
    The FAA is proposing a series of operational initiatives to 
increase the safety of helicopter air ambulance operations. 
Specifically, the FAA is proposing to--(1) Increase VFR weather minima, 
(2) allow IFR operations at locations without weather reporting, (3) 
specify procedures for VFR/visual transitions from instrument 
approaches, and (4) require additional VFR flight planning. These 
proposals are intended to reduce accidents due to CFIT, obstacle 
collisions, accidents during night operations, and accidents resulting 
from inadvertent flight into IMC by prescribing more stringent VFR 
requirements and providing more opportunity for IFR operations. These 
rules are proposed only for helicopter air ambulance operations because 
of the unique environment in which those operations are conducted, 
including off-airport or heliport landings and potentially time-
sensitive operations. The FAA notes that these proposals address 
recommendations made by the Part 125/135 ARC.

[[Page 62649]]

    The FAA believes that the following accident is indicative of the 
type that this section of the proposal is intended to prevent. On 
January 11, 1998, a Bell 222UT, operating under part 135 with no filed 
flight plan and originating near Sandy, UT, encountered inadvertent IMC 
due to extremely poor weather. Shortly after take off, the helicopter 
collided with mountainous terrain resulting in fatal injuries to all on 
board. The NTSB cited the cause of the accident as the pilot's failure 
to ``maintain sufficient clearance or altitude from mountainous 
terrain,'' and continuing into known adverse weather. NTSB Accident 
Report FTW98FA093 (Oct. 30, 1998).
    The FAA proposes for these provisions to take effect at the 
effective date of the final rule.
i. Increase VFR Weather Minima (Sec.  135.607)
    The FAA is proposing to add Sec.  135.607 to prescribe more 
stringent VFR weather minima for helicopter air ambulance operations in 
uncontrolled airspace than those currently established in part 135.
    Currently, Sec.  135.205 requires visibility of at least \1/2\ 
statute mile during the day and 1 statute mile at night for VFR 
helicopter operations at an altitude of 1,200 feet or less above the 
surface in Class G airspace. For certificate holders conducting 
helicopter air ambulance operations, Operations Specification A021 sets 
forth more stringent weather minima for VFR operations conducted in 
uncontrolled airspace. This rule would codify the weather requirements 
of Operations Specification A021.
    The NTSB cited in its 2006 Special Investigation Report two 
examples of fatal accidents that may have been prevented if the 
operations had been conducted according to the weather minima contained 
in the part 135 helicopter air ambulance operations specifications in 
effect at the time of the investigation. The first was the 2003 Salt 
Lake City, UT, accident in which a helicopter air ambulance crashed 
into terrain when weather conditions were below part 135 minima. The 
other accident occurred in Redwood Valley, CA, when a helicopter air 
ambulance crashed into mountainous terrain during high winds and heavy 
rain. The Safety Board concluded that EMS operations would be improved 
if all emergency medical services were operated under part 135. The 
NTSB subsequently issued Safety Recommendation A-06-12 recommending 
that the FAA require all emergency medical services operators to comply 
with part 135 operations specifications while conducting flights with 
medical personnel on board. This proposal would address that safety 
recommendation.
    The proposed weather minima for uncontrolled airspace are 
determined by whether the flight is taking place in a mountainous or 
non-mountainous area, and whether, within those classifications, the 
flight is taking place in a certificate holder's local flying area or 
is a cross-country flight. As defined in proposed Sec.  135.601, a 
local flying area is an area that the certificate holder designates as 
one in which its pilots are familiar with the terrain and other 
obstacles. Weather minima are less stringent in local flying areas 
because of pilots' increased familiarity with obstacles and the 
operating environment as compared with other cross-country areas. A 
local flying area would be limited to a 50-nautical mile (NM) radius 
because the FAA believes that a pilot would not be able to demonstrate 
detailed knowledge of hazards such as towers and high-altitude terrain 
within a larger area. The local flying area definition would codify the 
language of Operations Specification A021 issued on January 23, 2006.
    Table 1 shows the proposed VFR minimum altitudes and visibility 
requirements.

                           Table 1--VFR Minimum Altitudes and Visibility Requirements
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                     Weather Minima
                                      --------------------------------------------------------------------------
               Location                                                                  Night using an approved
                                                 Day                     Night                 NVIS or HTAWS
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Nonmountainous local flying areas....  800-foot ceiling, 2      1,000-foot ceiling, 3    800-foot ceiling, 3
                                        statute miles            statute miles            statute miles
                                        visibility.              visibility.              visibility.
Nonmountainous cross[dash]country      800-foot ceiling, 3      1,000-foot ceiling, 5    1,000-foot ceiling, 3
 flying areas.                          statute miles            statute miles            statute miles
                                        visibility.              visibility.              visibility.
Mountainous local flying areas.......  800-foot ceiling, 3      1,500-foot ceiling, 3    1,000-foot ceiling, 3
                                        statute miles            statute miles            statute miles
                                        visibility.              visibility.              visibility.
Mountainous cross[dash]country flying  1,000-foot ceiling, 3    1,500-foot ceiling, 5    1,000-foot ceiling, 5
 areas.                                 statute miles            statute miles            statute miles
                                        visibility.              visibility.              visibility.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In all flying areas, certificate holders conducting operations in a 
helicopter equipped with an FAA-approved night-vision imaging system 
(NVIS) or FAA-approved HTAWS could apply lower weather minima during 
night operations. Those requirements would be less stringent than the 
basic night operations minima because of the obstacle and CFIT 
avoidance benefits obtained from those devices. An approved NVIS would 
require, at minimum, a night vision goggle (NVG) system as defined in 
paragraph 1.2 of RTCA/DO-275, Minimum Operational Performance Standards 
for Integrated Night Vision Imaging System Equipment, which states that 
the NVIS system includes not only the NVGs themselves, but also 
interior and exterior lighting, windshield and windows, and general 
crew station design requirements. RTCA/DO-275, paragraph 1.6.1, defines 
NVGs as binocular systems. Under this proposal the FAA does not intend 
to change the term ``NVIS'' to include systems other than NVGs. 
Therefore, unless equipped with HTAWS, operators using systems that do 
not meet the definition of ``NVIS'' would not be permitted to use the 
NVIS weather minima in Sec.  135.607.
    Because of the requirement proposed in Sec.  135.605 for all 
helicopter air ambulances to be equipped with HTAWS within 3 years of 
the effective date of the final rule (discussed in section III.A.2.a.), 
it is anticipated that all certificate holders would eventually operate 
under these reduced night operations weather minima. The FAA seeks 
comment on the interrelationship of these two proposed requirements.
    The FAA believes that requiring all VFR legs of a helicopter air 
ambulance operation to comply with more stringent weather requirements 
would be an effective method of increasing safety in helicopter air 
ambulance operations. The FAA does not believe that certificate holders 
would need to make significant changes to their operations because this 
proposed rule would

[[Page 62650]]

incorporate the operating limitations and the weather minima already 
applicable under Operations Specification A021.
ii. IFR Operations at Airports and Heliports Without Weather Reporting 
(Sec.  135.609)
    The FAA is proposing to add Sec.  135.609 to allow helicopter air 
ambulance operators to conduct IFR operations at airports and heliports 
without a weather reporting facility. Currently, the regulations only 
permit IFR operations into and out of airports with an on-site weather 
reporting source. The proposed rule would allow certificate holders to 
obtain operations specifications permitting IFR operations into and out 
of locations without a weather reporting facility if they are able to 
obtain weather reports from an approved weather reporting facility 
located within 15 NM of the destination landing area. The FAA believes 
that this provision would increase the use of IFR by helicopter air 
ambulance operators and result in more aircraft operating in a 
positively controlled environment, thereby increasing safety.
    The FAA has granted exemptions from these regulations to helicopter 
air ambulance operators and based this proposal on those 
exemptions.\26\ In Exemption No. 9490, the FAA determined it was 
``safer and in the public interest to conduct operations under IFR 
rather than VFR particularly in low and marginal weather conditions'' 
because IFR operation is an effective method of countering CFIT 
accidents. Additionally, this provision would codify a similar 
provision in Operations Specification A021 issued to helicopter air 
ambulance operators.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \26\ Exemption Nos. 9490 and 9490B (Regulatory Docket No. FAA-
2006-26407); Exemption No. 9665 (Regulatory Docket No. FAA-2008-
0169); Exemption No. 6175 (Regulatory Docket No. FAA-2001-9195) 
(granting authority for departures only); Exemption No. 6175G 
(Regulatory Docket No. FAA-2001-9195).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The FAA notes that this proposal would not relieve a pilot from the 
requirement to assess the landing conditions before descending below 
the minimum descent altitude set forth in Sec.  91.175. To operate in 
this environment, certificate holders also would be required to 
implement additional safety measures beyond those otherwise required 
for IFR flight to ensure the pilot has the appropriate tools to operate 
the helicopter safely into locations without weather reporting. For 
example, helicopters used in these operations would have to be equipped 
with an autopilot and navigation equipment appropriate to the approach 
to be flown, such as an IFR-certified global positioning system (GPS) 
or wide area augmentation system (WAAS) receiver. Additionally, to help 
the pilot ascertain the weather in the aircraft's vicinity, Sec.  
135.609 would require helicopters to be equipped with severe weather 
detection equipment, such as weather radar or lightning detection 
equipment. The ``navigation equipment appropriate to the approach to be 
flown'' is necessary because, for example, although an ILS approach at 
the nearby municipal airport may provide the lowest planning minima, if 
the aircraft is equipped with only a GPS, the lower planning minima of 
the ILS are unusable.
    Section 135.609 not only establishes aircraft equipment 
requirements to ensure a higher level of safety and to mitigate the 
associated risk, but also requires certain training of the flightcrew. 
That training is tailored to the operating environment and the weather 
observations needed at those locations. These equipment and training 
requirements are found in the exemptions referenced above. The FAA 
believes that these additional equipment and training requirements are 
necessary to compensate for the lack of specific weather information 
available at the destination.
iii. IFR to VFR/Visual Transitions (Sec.  135.611)
    The FAA is proposing to add Sec.  135.611 to establish weather 
minima for transitions to the VFR segment of an instrument 
approach.\27\ Pilots conducting an IFR approach would, upon reaching a 
point in space at a minimum descent altitude, continue the flight to 
the landing area under VFR if conditions permit. This provision would 
facilitate operations under IFR with their associated safety benefits.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \27\ The approaches permitted under IFR PinS Copter Special 
Instrument Approach Procedures, and IFR Standard and certain Special 
Instrument Approach Procedures (IAPs) are developed by the FAA using 
standardized methods associated with the U.S. Standard for Terminal 
Instrument Procedures (TERPs). IFR Standard and PinS Copter Special 
Instrument Approach Procedures are publicly available approaches for 
use by appropriately qualified pilots operating properly equipped 
and airworthy aircraft. Special IAPs generally service private-use 
airports or heliports, and the FAA authorizes only certain 
individual pilots or pilots in individual organizations to use these 
procedures. Special IAPs may require additional crew training and/or 
aircraft equipment or performance, and may also require the use of 
landing aids, communications, or weather services not available for 
public use. Instrument approach procedures that service private use 
airports or heliports are generally special IAPs.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Proposed Sec.  135.611(a)(1) establishes the requirements for 
instrument approaches containing the instruction to ``proceed 
visually'' from the missed approach point (MAP). For these approaches, 
the weather minima reflected on the approach chart would apply.
    For PinS Copter Special Approaches, proposed 135.611(a)(2) would 
permit operations under lower weather minima than currently allowed for 
cruise flight in uncontrolled airspace when transitioning from IFR to a 
VFR segment on approach. These approaches contain the instruction to 
``proceed VFR.'' The applicable minima are based on the distance from 
the MAP to the landing area. The pilot would therefore need to evaluate 
the proximity of the MAP to the landing area to determine the 
appropriate VFR minima, which are based on the distance from the 
landing area. Under proposed Sec.  135.611(a)(2)(i), the visibility 
must be at least 1 statute mile if the MAP is within 1 NM of the 
heliport of intended landing. To make the transition from IFR flight to 
VFR from a point in space 3 NM or less from the destination, a pilot 
would need to have 2 statute miles of visibility and a 600-foot ceiling 
during the day, or 3 statute miles of visibility and a 600-foot ceiling 
at night in accordance with Sec.  135.611(a)(3).
    The FAA recognizes that the area between the MAP and the ``heliport 
of intended landing'' (i.e. the heliport reflected on the approach 
chart as no deviation to another location is authorized in this case) 
has been flight checked but may not meet the requirements to ``proceed 
visually.'' The FAA recognizes that obstacles in the vicinity of an 
instrument approach are flight-checked and marked on instrument 
approach charts. Approach charts are updated more frequently than the 
sectional charts used in VFR operations. Therefore, it is less likely 
that pilots would encounter unexpected obstacles when following an 
approach documented on an instrument approach chart than when en route 
using a sectional chart.
    The FAA recognizes that a helicopter air ambulance operator may 
follow a special or standard instrument approach to a heliport or 
airport to descend below weather and then transition to VFR flight to 
land at another location. In that case, the minima of Sec.  
135.611(a)(3) or Sec.  135.611(a)(4) would apply, depending on the 
distance to the intended landing area, which could be an off-site 
location.
    Lastly, if a pilot transitions from IFR to VFR from a point in 
space more than 3 NM from the destination, the higher weather minima of 
proposed Sec.  135.607 would apply. The FAA selected 3 NM because that 
distance is the standard amount of visibility required for VFR

[[Page 62651]]

operations in controlled airspace in the lower altitudes.
    This proposed rule also sets forth standards for pilots departing a 
destination if they used the provisions of this section to access that 
location. The same weather minima would apply to the departure if the 
pilot has filed an IFR flight plan and will obtain IFR clearance within 
3 NM of the departure location, and if the pilot departs following an 
FAA-approved obstacle departure procedure. However it is important to 
note that a pilot who simply flies the reverse course of the approach 
used when landing would not be following an FAA-approved obstacle 
departure procedure, as this procedure has not been flight-checked to 
specific departure criteria.
    The FAA believes that flights conducted under IFR obtain many 
safety benefits such as obstacle clearance, aircraft separation, and 
possible weather avoidance, thereby reducing obstacle collisions, CFIT, 
and wire strikes. The proposed rule would benefit pilots by enabling 
them to access more destinations by flying within the IFR structure, 
and then continuing on a VFR segment that has been flight checked for 
obstacles by the FAA. If the flight can be continued, then the pilot 
would have the benefit of operating through an area where obstacles 
have been flight checked and marked by the FAA. If the flight cannot 
continue under VFR, then the pilot must maintain IFR flight and 
continue to an alternate destination consistent with current 
regulations.
    This proposal would implement Part 125/135 ARC recommendations. 
Also, this proposal would codify the provision of Operations 
Specification A021 regarding weather minima to be used during 
transitions to VFR flight with changes pertaining to Copter Special 
Instrument Approaches.
iv. VFR Flight Planning (Sec.  135.613)
    The FAA is proposing to add Sec.  135.613 to require helicopter air 
ambulance pilots to perform pre-flight planning to determine the 
minimum safe altitude along the planned en route phase of flight when 
conducting VFR operations.
    The FAA is proposing to require pilots to evaluate, document, and 
plan to clear terrain and obstacles along the planned route of flight 
by no less than 300 feet for day operations, and 500 feet for night 
operations. The pilot would use this minimum safe cruise altitude when 
determining the minimum required ceiling and visibility for the planned 
flight. If the weather minima would not permit VFR flight at the 
minimum safe cruise altitude, the pilot could either conduct the flight 
under IFR, or not conduct the flight. Pilots could deviate from the 
planned flight path if conditions or operational considerations 
necessitate a deviation. However, during such deviations, the pilot 
would not be relieved from weather or terrain/obstruction clearance 
requirements.
    If changes to the planned flight occur during flight, the pilot 
could continue along the new route until reaching his or her 
destination without re-planning the flight using the requirements of 
proposed Sec.  135.613. However, upon reaching an intermediate stop, 
the pilot would have to evaluate the new route for terrain and obstacle 
clearance while the aircraft is on the ground before departure.
    This proposal is intended to prevent obstacle collisions by 
requiring pilots to be aware of the terrain and highest obstacles along 
a planned route. The proposal would codify a provision of Operations 
Specification A021, issued to all helicopter air ambulance certificate 
holders, which requires the identification and documentation of the 
highest obstacle along the planned route before VFR operations.
d. Pre-Flight Risk Analysis (Sec.  135.615)
    The FAA is proposing to add Sec.  135.615 to require certificate 
holders to implement pre-flight risk-analysis programs. The FAA 
believes that pre-flight risk analysis may prevent accidents by 
mitigating risks before flight. This proposal is intended to provide 
certificate holders with the means to assess risk and make 
determinations regarding the flight's safety before launch.
    Pre-flight risk assessment has been the subject of FAA guidance, 
industry best practices, and an NTSB study. On August 1, 2005, the FAA 
published Notice 8000.301, Operational Risk Assessment Programs for 
Helicopter Emergency Medical Services, which provided guidance to 
inspectors on risk-assessment programs used in helicopter air ambulance 
operations. The notice discussed concepts used in a risk management and 
assessment program, and provided examples of risk variables that a 
certificate holder could consider in the decision to launch a flight. 
These variables included weather, flight crewmember performance, 
operating environment, airworthiness status of the helicopter, and 
weather. The notice also included several examples of risk-assessment 
matrices that certificate holders could use in their operations, and 
included the concept of consulting with management personnel if the 
risk level reached a certain level. The notice also encouraged pilots 
to obtain information pertaining to a planned operation from a number 
of sources, including mechanics, communications specialists, and flight 
medical personnel, when determining risks associated with a flight 
operation.
    Notably, a basic concept of a risk assessment program articulated 
in the notice is that the pilot's authority to decline a flight 
assignment is supreme, while his or her decision to accept a flight is 
subject to review if risks are identified. The notice stated that once 
the pilot has declined a flight assignment, other parties, such as a 
certificate holder's management personnel, should not continue the risk 
assessment pertaining to that flight in an effort to override the 
pilot's decision to decline the assignment.
    On January 28, 2006, the FAA published SAFO 06001, which 
recommended that certificate holders apply ``safety attributes or risk 
management/assessment strategies to each flight.''
    In AC 120-96 (May 5, 2008), the FAA recognized that operations 
control centers provide improvements in pre-flight risk analysis and 
conceptualized joint mission responsibility shared by pilots and 
operations control centers. This AC also provides practical examples of 
pre-flight risk analyses and how such analyses can be integrated into 
helicopter air ambulance operations. The AC discusses that operations 
control specialists may assist helicopter air ambulance pilots by 
participating in risk analysis, providing supplementary information 
regarding weather, route information, and landing zones, monitoring 
flight information such as weather, and monitoring flight 
progression.\28\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \28\ The FAA has issued other ACs relevant to this topic. 
Advisory Circular 135-14A Emergency Medical Services/Helicopter 
(EMS/H) (June 20, 1991) included guidance on ``Judgment and 
Decisions,'' and Advisory Circular 120-51E Crew Resource Management 
Training (Jan. 22, 2004) discussed the importance of developing 
pilot-error management skills and procedures.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A January 2009 FAA survey of inspectors with oversight of 
helicopter air ambulance operations found that 94 percent of helicopter 
air ambulance operators have some type of decision-making and risk-
analysis programs in place. The survey did not reveal the extent of 
these decision-making and risk-analysis programs; however, the FAA 
believes that the models currently in use incorporate government, 
industry,\29\ and military risk-analysis

[[Page 62652]]

practices as these entities have been the primary entities developing 
such programs.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \29\ The International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) and the 
Helicopter Association International (HAI) have developed resources, 
such as IHST's ``Safety Management System Toolkit,'' to assist 
operators with implementing risk-analysis programs.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The NTSB also has addressed the need for pre-flight risk analysis. 
In its 2006 Special Investigation Report on Emergency Medical Services 
Operations, the NTSB concluded, based in part on its investigations of 
three fatal helicopter air ambulance accidents, that the 
``implementation of flight risk evaluation before each mission would 
enhance the safety of emergency medical services operations.'' \30\ 
With regard to the 2003 Salt Lake City, UT, accident in which a 
helicopter air ambulance crashed into terrain in poor weather 
conditions, the NTSB noted that had the pilot been required to perform 
a systematic evaluation of the flight risks (including assessments of 
weather minima and route of flight), the pilot may not have accepted 
the mission. The NTSB also cited the 2004 Battle Mountain, NV, fatal 
accident in which a helicopter air ambulance transporting a patient 
crashed into mountainous terrain while on a direct route in 
deteriorating weather conditions, and believed that if the pilot had 
performed a risk evaluation, he may have chosen a different route, and 
the accident may have been prevented. The NTSB also identified the 2004 
Pyote, TX, fatal accident, in which a helicopter air ambulance 
transporting a patient crashed into terrain while maneuvering in 
reduced-visibility conditions and noted that the pilot had not 
performed a risk assessment.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \30\ NTSB, Special Investigation Report on Emergency Medical 
Services Operations ((NTSB/SIR-06/01) 4 (Jan. 25, 2006).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The FAA's proposal is intended to provide standard guidelines for 
the implementation of pre-flight risk analysis procedures. Under the 
proposal, the pilot in command of a helicopter air ambulance would be 
required to conduct a pre-flight risk assessment before the first leg 
of each helicopter air ambulance operation. Helicopter air ambulance 
operations generally consist of two legs, such as a hospital-to-
hospital transfer, or three legs, in which the helicopter departs its 
base to pick up a patient, transfers the patient to a hospital, then 
returns to base. The pre-flight analysis only would need to be 
conducted before departure on the first leg, but should be conducted 
with consideration for each leg of the operation. The pilot also would 
be required to sign the completed risk analysis worksheet, and provide 
the date and time of signing. Through this requirement, the FAA intends 
to highlight that the pilot is responsible for accurately completing 
this worksheet.
    The FAA proposes to require certificate holders to establish their 
risk assessment procedures and document them in their operations 
manuals. A pre-flight risk analysis would consist of at least the 
following: (1) Flight considerations (for example, a review of any 
obstructions and terrain along the entire intended route, altitude 
considerations for the area being flown, and fuel considerations); (2) 
human factors (for example, whether a pilot may be affected by personal 
stress, knowledge of the patient's injuries (e.g., pediatric, or 
critical injury), fatigue, and experience in the type of operation to 
be conducted); (3) weather along the intended route (for example, 
weather for take off, en route, and destination airports to include 
forecasts); (4) whether another operator has refused or rejected the 
flight request; and (5) strategies for mitigating identified risk, 
including obtaining and documenting the certificate holder's management 
personnel's approval of the decision to accept a flight when the risks 
are elevated. Certificate holders would be permitted to add additional 
categories to mitigate risks associated with their specific operations.
    As previously noted, certificate holders would be required to 
develop a method to determine whether the flight request had been 
offered to another company. This provision is intended to combat the 
practice of ``helicopter shopping'' in which a flight request turned 
down by one company will be offered to another. If another company had 
been offered and refused the flight, it is important to understand why 
the flight was refused. If a flight was refused because of weather 
considerations, that information should feature prominently in the 
second company's pre-flight risk analysis. However, if the first 
company turned down the flight because its helicopter was inoperative, 
then that refusal likely would not impact the risk assessment for the 
second company in determining whether to accept the flight. The FAA 
notes that the helicopter air ambulance industry has taken steps to 
address this problem, for example by creating a Web site (http://www.weatherturndown.com) where companies can report when they do not 
accept a flight and the basis for the decision. Nevertheless, the FAA 
is proposing a requirement to ensure that this practice is adopted by 
all certificate holders authorized to conduct helicopter air ambulance 
operations.
    In addition, the proposal would require certificate holders to 
establish a procedure for obtaining and documenting management 
personnel's decision to launch a flight when the risk reaches a 
predetermined level. This provision is designed so that pilots will 
seek a second opinion regarding whether to launch. This would be 
particularly effective where the risk is not so great that it is clear 
that the flight should be refused, but rather when it is at a level 
where a pilot may be unsure about the flight's safety, and the pilot 
may feel personal pressure to perform the flight and perhaps save a 
life despite the identified risks. The FAA emphasizes the basic concept 
articulated in Notice 8000.301 that risk analysis forms should not be 
used by a certificate holder's management personnel, or others within 
an organization, to override a pilot's decision to decline a flight 
assignment.
    The FAA's proposal also would require certificate holders to retain 
the original or a copy of completed pre-flight risk analysis worksheets 
for at least 90 days from the date of the operation. Certificate 
holders would be permitted to determine where the completed worksheets 
will be kept, but the procedures for collecting the worksheets and 
maintaining the records would need to be outlined in certificate 
holders' operations manuals.
    The FAA notes that this proposal would respond to NTSB Safety 
Recommendation A-06-13 in which the NTSB recommended that the FAA 
require helicopter air ambulance operators ``to develop and implement 
flight risk evaluation programs that include training all employees 
involved in the operation, procedures that support the systematic 
evaluation of flight risks, and consultation with others in EMS flight 
operations if the risks reach a predefined level.'' This proposal also 
may contribute to a certificate holder's overall safety program because 
a pre-flight risk assessment would be a method of incorporating 
proactive safety methods into a company's flight operations. 
Accordingly, this proposal also would partially address NTSB Safety 
Recommendation A-09-89 regarding the implementation of sound risk 
management practices.
    Certificate holders would be required to comply with this provision 
by the effective date of the final rule.
e. Medical Personnel Pre-Flight Briefing (Sec.  135.619)
    The FAA is proposing to add Sec.  135.619 to require that medical 
personnel on board a helicopter air ambulance flight receive a 
supplemental pre-flight safety briefing with information specific to 
helicopter air

[[Page 62653]]

ambulance flights. This information would be in addition to the 
passenger briefing currently required under part 135. As an alternative 
to the proposed pre-flight safety briefing, certificate holders would 
be permitted to provide training every 2 years to medical personnel 
through an FAA-approved training program. This proposal would 
positively affect the safety of operations because as a result of an 
increased familiarity with the aircraft and emergency procedures, 
medical personnel would be less likely to inadvertently introduce risk 
to the operation when outfitting the passenger compartment the purpose 
of providing medical treatment and when providing medical care to a 
patient.
    The following accidents exemplify the types of accidents that this 
proposal is intended to prevent.
    On November 9, 2004, the pilot of a Bell 206L1 helicopter, operated 
under part 91 near Tulsa, OK, lost control during cruise flight and 
crashed causing substantial damage to the helicopter. The pilot stated 
that the medical personnel added two oxygen tanks in the cargo area 
before takeoff. The oxygen tanks were stacked and reached approximately 
the same height as the cargo area's latch release. The NTSB noted the 
accident was caused by the loss of tail rotor drive as a result of a 
blanket coming in contact with the tail rotor blades after the baggage 
compartment door unlatched during flight. NTSB Accident Report 
DFW05LA019 (Feb. 24, 2005).
    On March 6, 2003, a pilot operating a Bell 206L-3 under part 91 
lost control of the helicopter. No injuries were sustained by the 
flightcrew or medical personnel on board. Before takeoff to pick up a 
patient in Llano, TX, medical personnel opened and closed the aft cargo 
compartment. The NTSB noted that the accident was caused by a blanket 
from the aft cargo compartment that entered into the tail rotor blades 
causing the pilot's loss of control. The NTSB determined that the aft 
cargo compartment lock was fully operational, and a contributing cause 
of the accident was medical personnel improperly securing this 
compartment. NTSB Accident Report FTW03LA104 (Aug. 26, 2003).
    Under the proposal, certificate holders would be required to brief 
medical personnel before flight on specific topics including the 
physiological aspects of flight (how flight affects the human body), 
patient loading and unloading, safety in and around the aircraft, and 
emergency procedures. This briefing would supplement the passenger 
briefing requirements found in Sec.  135.117(a) and (b). The FAA 
believes that an additional safety briefing is warranted because of the 
unique role of medical personnel on helicopter air ambulance flights, 
which may include working around an operating helicopter, patient 
loading and unloading, and providing medical care within a compact, 
moving, vehicle. The FAA would permit the briefing to be provided once 
per shift for medical personnel assigned to a helicopter air ambulance 
base.
    The FAA is proposing to allow certificate holders the option to 
provide safety training to medical personnel in lieu of the pre-flight 
briefing. Training topics would include the same topics addressed in 
the proposed pre-flight safety briefing. The FAA believes that it would 
be advantageous to certificate holders to implement medical personnel 
training programs. Training programs would help ensure that medical 
personnel serving on board their helicopters have enhanced knowledge of 
the required training topics and a greater familiarity with the 
aircraft than those who receive only the pre-flight briefing. The FAA 
anticipates that certificate holders who fly with a consistent group of 
medical personnel would take advantage of this provision to expedite 
operations. The proposal would require that the certificate holder's 
training program be approved by the FAA, and that medical personnel 
receive training every 24 months. The training program would include a 
minimum of 4 hours of ground training and 4 hours of training in and 
around a helicopter air ambulance. In the event some medical personnel 
on board a helicopter air ambulance flight have received this training, 
but others have not, the pilot in command would be required to provide 
the proposed supplemental pre-flight safety briefing.
    The FAA notes that these provisions incorporate aspects of agency 
guidance in AC 135-14A, Emergency Medical Services/Helicopter, which 
includes suggested training for medical personnel in aviation 
terminology, use of medical equipment in the aircraft, physiological 
aspects of flight, and patient loading and unloading. This proposal 
also incorporates aspects of AC 00-64, including human factors, 
training, encouraging communications, and promoting standard operating 
procedures.
    Under the proposal, the FAA would require the certificate holder to 
document the training it provides to each individual who serves as 
medical personnel, and maintain a record of that training for 26 
calendar months following the individual's completion of training. This 
record would include the individual's name, the most recent date that 
training was completed, and a description, copy, or reference to the 
training materials used. The FAA is proposing this period of time 
because the training provided to medical personnel would expire after 
24 months, and the additional 60-day period would ensure that the 
records would be available for review by the FAA after the training had 
expired, if necessary.
    Certificate holders would be required to comply with this provision 
by the effective date of the final rule.
2. Equipment Requirements
a. Helicopter Terrain Awareness and Warning Systems (HTAWS) (Sec.  
135.605)
    The FAA is proposing to add Sec.  135.605(a) to require that all 
helicopters used in air ambulance operations be equipped with HTAWS. 
The FAA believes that HTAWS would assist helicopter air ambulance 
pilots in maintaining situational awareness of surrounding terrain and 
obstacles, and therefore help prevent accidents caused by CFIT, loss of 
control, inadvertent flight into IMC, and night operations. HTAWS has 
particular relevance to helicopter air ambulance operations, which 
often are conducted at night and into unimproved landing sites.
    HTAWS \31\ is a helicopter-specific application of TAWS technology. 
TAWS technology originally was developed for airplanes and is required 
on turbine-powered airplanes configured with six or more passenger 
seats used in part 135 operations. In 2005, the FAA recommended that 
helicopter air ambulance operators consider using TAWS for night 
operations when conditions and mission dictate.\32\ However, TAWS 
technology presents operational difficulties, such as nuisance 
warnings, when used in helicopters. HTAWS takes into account that 
helicopters generally do not fly as fast as airplanes and typically 
operate closer to the ground in hazard-rich environments. HTAWS 
assesses the aircraft's position over a smaller area of terrain than 
TAWS to prevent warnings to pilots of terrain or obstacles that do not 
immediately pose a hazard. The FAA believes that the decrease in 
nuisance warnings with HTAWS increases the usefulness of the equipment. 
It is because of these

[[Page 62654]]

significant differences that the FAA is proposing to require 
certificate holders to install HTAWS and would not accept TAWS designed 
for an airplane as an alternate means of compliance.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \31\ HTAWS uses its position sources to determine a helicopter's 
horizontal and vertical position and compare it to surrounding 
terrain. HTAWS derives a helicopter's ground speed, position, and 
altitude from a global positioning system (GPS) and a pre-programmed 
algorithm database installed and maintained by the HTAWS 
manufacturer.
    \32\ Notice 8000.293.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In 2006, RTCA, Inc. established a special committee that developed 
RTCA/DO-309, Minimum Operational Performance Standards (MOPS) for 
Helicopter Terrain Awareness and Warning System (HTAWS) Airborne 
Equipment. The FAA subsequently issued TSO-C194, which sets out the 
minimum performance standards for HTAWS. A survey of FAA inspectors 
revealed that 41 percent of certificated helicopter air ambulance 
operators have started equipping their helicopter fleets with TAWS. 
However, the FAA did not ask in its survey whether these devices were 
compliant with TSOs for TAWS (TSO-C151, Terrain Awareness and Warning 
System) or HTAWS (TSO-C194). The FAA recognizes that some certificate 
holders voluntarily equipped their helicopters with TAWS, or other 
TAWS-like devices, that may not meet the standards of TSO-C194 for 
HTAWS. Nevertheless, the FAA is proposing that these certificate 
holders equip their helicopter air ambulances with HTAWS because of the 
differences between TAWS and HTAWS. The FAA proposes to incorporate the 
standards articulated in TSO-C194 by reference in Sec.  135.605(a).
    The FAA believes the following accident is illustrative of the type 
of accident that may be prevented if helicopters are equipped with 
HTAWS. On March 21, 2002, a Eurocopter AS-350B helicopter, returning to 
its base in Susanville, California, collided with the surface of a 
lake. The pilot became disoriented as they flew over the ``glassy 
smooth'' water, and subsequently descended ``within 20 to 50 feet of 
the lake surface'' and eventually struck the lake surface causing fatal 
injuries to the pilot and serious injuries to the medical personnel. 
The NTSB determined that the causal effect of the accident was the 
pilot's failure ``to maintain sufficient altitude/clearance above the 
water while performing a low altitude flight.'' The NTSB also cited as 
contributing factors the ``the glassy water conditions, and lack of 
visual cues concerning perception of altitude.'' See NTSB Accident 
Report LAX02FA114 (Apr. 28, 2004).
    In its January 25, 2006, Special Investigation Report on Emergency 
Medical Services Operations, the NTSB stated that the ``use of terrain 
awareness and warnings systems would enhance the safety of emergency 
medical services flight operations by helping to prevent controlled 
flight into terrain accidents that occur at night or during adverse 
weather conditions.'' \33\ The NTSB cited the 2004 Pyote, TX, fatal 
accident in which a helicopter air ambulance transporting a patient 
crashed into terrain while maneuvering in reduced-visibility 
conditions. The NTSB stated that if ``a TAWS had been installed and 
appropriately set to a minimum safe altitude setting, the pilots would 
have received ample warning during their respective aircraft's gradual 
descent into terrain * * *.'' The FAA notes that this proposal 
addresses NTSB Safety Recommendation A-06-15, which called on the FAA 
to require helicopter air ambulance operators ``to install terrain 
awareness and warning systems on their aircraft and to provide adequate 
training to ensure that flight crews are capable of using the systems 
to safely conduct EMS operations.'' \34\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \33\ NTSB/SIR-06/01, p. 11.
    \34\ Id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The FAA notes that other organizations recognize the value of 
HTAWS. The Flight Safety Foundation found that HTAWS could address 
risk-associated low-level VFR operations, especially at night.\35\ The 
Air Medical Physician Association noted that a team organized to study 
helicopter air ambulance accidents determined that TAWS could be a 
highly effective accident intervention strategy.\36\ The team made its 
determinations by reviewing the technical, financial, regulatory, and 
operational feasibility of its proposed interventions.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \35\ Flight Safety Foundation, Helicopter Emergency Medical 
Services (HEMS) Industry Risk Profile 43 (2009).
    \36\ Air Medical Physician Association, A Safety Review and Risk 
Assessment in Air Medical Transport 15-17 (2002).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Under the proposal, the FAA would give certificate holders 3 years 
from the effective date of the final rule to install HTAWS that meets 
the standards of TSO-C194. The FAA believes 3 years will provide ample 
time for the manufacture of an adequate supply of HTAWS units and for 
these units to be incorporated into helicopters. In addition, a 3-year 
compliance period will permit certificate holders to spread out the 
cost of compliance over that period of time.
    The FAA notes that it considered allowing certificate holders to 
use NVGs in lieu of HTAWS. However, the FAA has decided against such a 
proposal because NVGs may not be appropriate for all operations (for 
example, inadvertent flight into IMC), and additional time is needed to 
research the best use of the equipment before allowing it to be used as 
an alternate method of compliance. The FAA also considered requiring 
all commercial helicopters to be equipped with HTAWS; however, the 
agency believes the greatest benefit would be realized by helicopter 
air ambulance operators because a much greater percentage of their 
operations are conducted at night and in off-airway routing, and 
involve unimproved and unfamiliar landing areas.
    The FAA seeks comments on the proposed requirement to install 
HTAWS, the proposed implementation date, and possible alternatives to 
this provision. Comments should be accompanied by appropriate 
supporting documentation, data, and analysis.
b. Light-Weight Aircraft Recording System (LARS)
    The FAA is considering requiring certificate holders conducting 
helicopter air ambulance operations to install a light-weight aircraft 
recording system (LARS) in their helicopters. The FAA would target this 
proposal towards the helicopter air ambulance industry because of the 
number of accidents experienced by this segment of the commercial 
helicopter industry. As discussed earlier in this NPRM, between 1994 
and 2008 helicopter air ambulances suffered a greater amount of 
accidents as compared with other commercial helicopters.
    LARS comprises a system or combination of systems which record a 
helicopter's flight performance and operational data. The FAA is 
considering requiring the installation of LARS in order to provide 
critical information to investigators in the event of an accident. The 
FAA anticipates providing 3 years to allow sufficient time to procure 
and install LARS.
    Flight data recording devices are not widely used in the commercial 
helicopter air ambulance industry. Responses to FAA Notice 8900.63, 
Validation of HEMS Safety Initiatives, issued January 12, 2009, 
indicated that approximately 89 percent of existing helicopter air 
ambulance certificate holders have not equipped with a flight data 
recorder (FDR) system or an ``FDR-like system.'' The FAA believes that 
LARS can be used to assist accident investigations, as well as to 
promote operational safety, and that an equipage requirement may be 
warranted due to the small number of certificate holders that are using 
such devices.
    Currently, Sec.  135.151 requires a cockpit voice recorder (CVR) 
system in rotorcraft with a passenger seating configuration of six or 
more seats and for which two pilots are required by certification or 
operating rules. In addition, Sec.  135.152 requires FDRs in

[[Page 62655]]

rotorcraft with a passenger seating configuration of 10 or more seats. 
Most helicopters used in air ambulance operations are configured with 
fewer than six seats and, therefore, are not equipped with CVRs or 
FDRs. The FAA would require installation of LARS for all helicopter air 
ambulances regardless of passenger seating capacity or the number of 
pilots required by certification or operating rules, unless a 
certificate holder could demonstrate that a CVR or FDR could be used to 
comply with any requirements. The FAA notes that Sec.  135.152(k) 
excepts certain helicopters manufactured before August 18, 1997, from 
the FDR requirements of Sec.  135.152. Nevertheless, if such 
helicopters are used in air ambulance operations, certificate holders 
would be required to equip those helicopters with LARS.
    The FAA notes that NTSB Safety Recommendation A-06-17 recommended 
requiring all transport-category rotorcraft operating under part 91 or 
part 135 to be equipped with CVRs and FDRs. The FAA is not proposing to 
require traditional CVRs or FDRs in helicopter air ambulances, as 
required for other aircraft because of the cost and the weight of such 
equipment. CVR and FDR installation is a complex process that includes 
invasive access and modifications to install necessary sensors and 
wiring. The costs of a supplemental type certificate (STC) and the CVR 
and the FDR equipment could prove to be prohibitive for this 
application. In addition, helicopter air ambulances tend to be smaller 
than aircraft for which CVRs and FDRs are required, and available space 
and weight allotted for personnel and medical equipment are at a 
premium. An FAA review of Operations Safety System (OPSS) data showed 
that more than 70 percent of the helicopters listed on helicopter air 
ambulance operators' certificates weigh less than 6,000 pounds. A 
combination CVR and FDR is estimated to weigh up to 10 pounds compared 
with LARS that may weigh less than 1 pound to 5 pounds. Therefore, the 
FAA believes the weight of a CVR and an FDR would have a greater 
adverse impact on a helicopter air ambulance operator's ability to 
provide medical care to a patient and on the performance 
characteristics of a smaller helicopter than LARS.
    LARS would be required to capture data according to a broadly 
defined set of parameters including information pertaining to the 
aircraft's state (such as heading, altitude, and attitude), condition 
(such as rotors, transmission, engine parameters, and flight controls), 
and system performance (such as full authority digital engine control, 
and electronic flight instrumentation system). The FAA is considering 
requiring operation of a helicopter's LARS from the application of 
electrical power before take-off until the removal of electrical power 
after termination of flight. LARS would have to receive electrical 
power from the helicopter's bus that provides the maximum reliability 
for operation without jeopardizing service to essential or emergency 
loads.
    Requiring these devices to capture a comprehensive set of 
parameters, such as those in place for FDRs, see 14 CFR 135.152, would 
significantly increase the cost of these units. The FAA estimates that 
LARS cost $6,450, plus installation and software to obtain data from 
the unit. The FAA believes that this requirement could be broadly and 
quickly implemented by the helicopter air ambulance industry in part 
because of the relatively low cost of these devices.
    The FAA acknowledges that LARS does not have the same crash 
survivability as CVRs and FDRs which are required by regulation to meet 
a crashworthiness standard. Nevertheless, the FAA believes that LARS 
will yield beneficial data when used in helicopter air ambulances. 
Helicopter accidents usually involve forces much less severe than 
airplane accidents, as the flight envelope is usually much smaller. For 
example, helicopter accidents seldom involve impact airspeed in excess 
of 150 knots. Accidents which occur in hover operations typically 
involve speed less than 10 knots. Likewise, altitude ranges and 
vertical speeds are normally substantially less than the potential 
airplane accident profiles. These facts lend credence to the concept of 
LARS for accident investigation purposes using devices that are not 
hardened to the extent required by the Technical Standard Order for 
Flight Data Recorders or Cockpit Voice Recorders.
    In addition, the FAA's Office of Accident Investigation and 
Prevention (AVP) reviewed helicopter air ambulance accident photographs 
from the last three years and found that the rear section of the 
tailboom (near the tail cone, tail rotor attachment and/or tail fin) 
has a high physical survival rate. This section of the aircraft often 
experiences the lowest deceleration loads (the rest of the aircraft has 
crumpled or disintegrated forward of the tail, absorbing or attenuating 
the deceleration), and is furthest from the fuel system, and hence 
usually unburned. This is most likely in straight-on impact, which is 
usually associated with controlled flight into terrain accidents. In 
loss of control accidents, where the mechanics of impact may be more 
varied, the rear of the tailboom usually survives. AVP estimated a 
survival rate of the rear of the tailboom structure (without structural 
compromise of burn damage) to be approximately 70 percent. Therefore, 
the FAA believes that a LARS memory module in the rear of the tailboom 
would allow a high potential for survival in the event of an accident. 
The FAA also notes that the NTSB found that LARS ``are crash-resistant 
and can provide significant information for investigators to determine 
accident causation * * *.'' \37\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \37\ NTSB Safety Recommendations A-09-87 through A-09-96, Sep. 
24, 2009, p. 9.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The proposal under consideration is to require the installation of 
LARS to provide event data to aid investigators after an accident. 
Currently, because most helicopter air ambulances are not equipped with 
flight data recording devices, investigators must piece together 
information pertaining to an accident from a variety of sources. LARS 
could provide precise technical data regarding the flight, such as 
heading, altitude, and attitude that may otherwise be unavailable. The 
FAA asks for comments on whether LARS will provide data that is 
valuable in an accident investigation.
    The FAA also invites comments on whether operators that are 
required to install LARS for accident investigation would also use 
those systems to improve daily operations, including whether operators 
would be more likely to participate in an FAA-approved Flight 
Operations Quality Assurance (FOQA) program if required to equip 
helicopters with LARS. A LARS could be used to collect digital flight 
data in an FAA-approved FOQA program. FOQA participants use the 
collected data to improve the safety of their operations, while the FAA 
uses the data to observe trends in operations and make system-wide 
safety enhancements based on those trends. In order to provide an 
incentive for participation in the FOQA program, the FAA protects 
certain voluntarily submitted FOQA data against public release and, 
except for criminal or deliberate actions, will not use FOQA data 
obtained from an operator's FOQA program in an enforcement action 
against that operator or its employees.\38\ These protections

[[Page 62656]]

are available only if the data is collected by the operator pursuant to 
a voluntary, FAA-approved, FOQA program.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \38\ See 14 CFR 13.401(e); 14 CFR part 193; 66 FR 55042 (Oct. 
31, 2001); Advisory Circular 120-82, Flight Operational Quality 
Assurance (Apr. 12, 2004); FAA Order 8000.81, Designation of FOQA 
Information as Protected From Public Disclosure Under 14 CFR part 
193 (Apr. 14, 2003).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The FAA is also considering requiring certificate holders that 
conduct air ambulance operations to install LARS and create a program 
that would use data obtained from the device to analyze and mitigate 
risk. Certificate holders could use the LARS data to modify their 
operational and maintenance procedures, provide immediate feedback to 
pilots in training, and highlight areas in which additional training 
may be needed. Certificate holders also could use the data as a 
training tool during flight simulator training sessions to reproduce 
situations that actually occurred in its operations.
    Certificate holders would be required to collect flight performance 
and operational data that characterizes the state of the helicopter and 
its subsystems which the certificate holder determines is pertinent to 
its safety program. Each certificate holder would be required to 
document the procedures and tools it would use to download and analyze 
the data from LARS, and the procedures and criteria it would use to 
identify and evaluate the data from LARS to enhance safety in its 
operations.
    The FAA would require a certificate holder to establish a method to 
retrieve, analyze, and evaluate data that is collected by LARS. Under 
this proposal, the FAA intends to provide flexibility to certificate 
holders with respect to how each certificate holder uses its LARS data 
by allowing them to establish an individualized program that is unique 
to its operation.
    The FAA notes that this proposal would address NTSB Safety 
Recommendation A-09-90 that recommends requiring certificate holders to 
install flight data recording devices on helicopter air ambulances and 
to ``establish a structured flight data monitoring program that reviews 
all available data sources to identify deviations from established 
norms and procedures and other potential safety issues.'' Because the 
FAA would require LARS under this scenario, the data developed by 
operators would not be eligible for protection under 14 CFR part 193, 
Protection of Voluntarily Submitted Information.
    Under this proposal, the FAA anticipates that certificate holders 
could use FDRs installed in helicopter air ambulances to comply with 
the LARS requirement. If the certificate holder is required under Sec.  
135.152 to have an FDR, it would be able to choose to use either the 
FDR or a certified quick-access recorder (QAR) connected to the flight 
data acquisition unit to comply with this requirement. A QAR provides a 
means to access the data collected by a FDR without removing the FDR. 
The time and effort required to access and download data from the FDR 
could be prohibitive. The additional weight from a QAR installation is 
about 0.5 pounds. A QAR unit, STC, and support software can cost 
$10,000 to $15,000, compared to the cost and installation of a LARS of 
less than $10,000. In either case, the proposed requirement to show how 
this data is being used to improve the safety of flight operations 
would remain applicable.
    The FAA considered permitting a CVR as an alternate means of 
complying with the proposed requirement to use LARS in an accident 
prevention program. However, similar to an FDR, the data recorded on a 
CVR may be difficult to retrieve following a flight. CVRs may be 
installed in hard-to-access locations inhibiting access to the unit. 
Further, obtaining the data may require the certificate holder to 
remove the CVR from the aircraft in order to transfer the data in an 
audible format. This process is time-consuming and labor-intensive, 
potentially causing the helicopter to remain out of service for a 
period of time. A certificate holder may require an inventory of CVRs 
to replace a removed CVR and immediately return the helicopter to 
service. Although CVRs provide excellent post-accident information, the 
CVR data alone does not provide adequate information for an accident 
prevention program. The FAA believes that these inefficiencies, 
combined with the limited usefulness of a CVR, could present a 
significant barrier to using CVR information to improve the safety of a 
certificate holder's operations.
    Although CVRs, FDRs, and QARs have been successfully implemented in 
several industry accident prevention programs, as discussed, the FAA 
does not believe that traditional recorders provide the most efficient 
means to collecting flight performance and operational data for 
helicopter air ambulances. In light of the fact that some helicopters 
currently used in air ambulance operations may be equipped with CVRs or 
FDRs, and given the comprehensive amount of data collected by and 
superior crashworthiness of those devices, the FAA calls for comments 
regarding how certificate holders could incorporate these devices into 
a program to enhance the safety of helicopter air ambulance operations.
3. Pilot Requirements
a. Instrument Rating (Sec.  135.603)
    The FAA is proposing to add Sec.  135.603 to require a helicopter 
air ambulance pilot to hold a helicopter instrument rating.
    Currently, Sec.  135.243(a) and (b) require the pilot in command of 
a helicopter air ambulance to hold, at a minimum, a commercial pilot 
certificate. To obtain a commercial pilot certificate with a helicopter 
rating, Sec.  61.129(c) requires that a pilot complete 10 hours of 
instrument training. However, helicopter air ambulance pilots are not 
required to hold instrument ratings unless they will be performing IFR 
or VFR over-the-top operations. In addition to other requirements, 
Sec.  61.65 requires a pilot to complete 50 hours of cross-country 
flight time as pilot in command and 40 hours of actual or simulated 
instrument time to obtain an instrument rating.
    As discussed previously, the FAA found that inadvertent flight into 
IMC is a common factor in helicopter air ambulance accidents. In 
general, many accidents result when pilots who lack the necessary 
skills or equipment to fly in marginal VMC or IMC attempt flight 
without outside references. This proposal is intended to ensure that 
helicopter air ambulance pilots are equipped to handle these situations 
and extract themselves from these dangerous situations. A pilot who 
receives the more extensive training on navigating a helicopter solely 
by reference to instruments provided by obtaining an instrument rating 
is better able to maintain situational awareness and maneuver the 
helicopter into a safe environment than a pilot without an instrument 
rating.
    The FAA is not proposing that a helicopter air ambulance pilot 
maintain instrument currency. This proposal is targeted to VFR 
operators because operators conducting IFR operations already must 
maintain instrument currency. The FAA has chosen this approach because, 
for VFR operators, this capability may require fewer resources than 
required to meet full currency requirements while maintaining adequate 
safety standards. Under this proposal, pilots would be required to 
demonstrate the ability to recover from inadvertent IMC during their 
annual competency checks.\39\ The FAA believes that pilots who learn 
basic instrument skills while obtaining an instrument rating, 
supplemented by preparation for an annual competency

[[Page 62657]]

check, will be adequately prepared to recover from an inadvertent IMC 
encounter.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \39\ See section III.B.3. of the preamble to this NPRM.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    This proposal would take effect 3 years after the effective date of 
the rule to allow helicopter air ambulance pilots who are not 
instrument-rated adequate time to pursue an instrument rating and to 
distribute the costs over a period of time.
b. Flight and Duty Time Limitations (Sec. Sec.  135.267 and 135.271)
    The FAA is proposing to amend Sec. Sec.  135.267 and 135.271 to 
require helicopter air ambulance operations conducted with medical 
personnel on board to count towards a pilot's daily flight time 
limitations.
    Currently, in certain situations, flight segments conducted without 
passengers but with medical personnel on board the helicopter are 
conducted under part 91. Specifically, part 91 segments preceding part 
135 segments are considered ``other commercial flying'' and count 
towards a pilot's daily flight time limitations. Part 91 segments that 
follow part 135 segments do not count towards the daily flight time 
limitations under Sec.  135.267 or Sec.  135.271, although these 
flights count towards a flightcrew member's quarterly and yearly flight 
time limitations because they are commercial flights.
    Helicopter air ambulance accidents have not been limited to flights 
conducted while patients were on board the aircraft. In fact, 35 of the 
55 accidents included in the NTSB's January 2006 Special Investigation 
Report on Emergency Medical Services Operations, occurred with medical 
personnel but no patients were on board.\40\ The FAA, therefore, is 
proposing to provide additional protections to medical crewmembers on 
flights, which under the current rules, would be conducted under part 
91.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \40\ NTSB, Special Investigation Report on Emergency Medical 
Services Operations (NTSB/SIR-06/01) 3 (Jan. 25, 2006).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    As previously discussed, the FAA is proposing to apply part 135 
rules to all helicopter air ambulance flights with medical personnel on 
board. This would have the effect of bringing such flight segments of a 
helicopter air ambulance operation under the part 135 flight and duty 
rules. The changes proposed to Sec. Sec.  135.267 and 135.271 emphasize 
that all flight time in helicopter air ambulance operations would be 
considered flight time that counts towards a pilot's daily fight time 
limitations.
    The FAA notes that these proposed changes respond to NTSB Safety 
Recommendation A-06-12. In that recommendation, the NTSB recognized 
that part 135 and part 91 differ regarding crew rest requirements--part 
135 contains flight time limitations and rest requirements while part 
91 does not. The NTSB emphasized in that recommendation that the phases 
of flight that involve transporting medical personnel, patient drop-
off, and aircraft positioning comprise the EMS mission and should not 
be differentiated. The NTSB concluded that the safety of EMS operations 
would be improved if the entire EMS flight operated under part 135 
operations specifications.
    Certificate holders would be required to comply with this provision 
by the effective date of the final rule.

B. Commercial Helicopters Operations (Including Air Ambulance 
Operations)

    The following provisions would apply to all commercial helicopter 
operations, including helicopter air ambulance operations, conducted 
under part 135. These proposals include new operational and equipment 
requirements for affected certificate holders.
1. Operational Procedures
a. IFR Alternate Airport Weather Minima (Sec.  135.221)
    The FAA is proposing to amend Sec.  135.221 to revise the alternate 
airport weather minima for helicopter IFR operations. Currently, pilots 
conducting IFR operations must designate an alternate airport at which 
the weather conditions will be at or above the authorized landing 
minima at the estimated time of arrival.
    Under the proposal, for part 97 instrument approach procedures or 
special instrument approach procedures, to designate an airport as an 
alternate, the ceiling at the alternate airport would need to be 200 
feet above the minimum for the approach to be flown, and the visibility 
would need to be at least 1 statute mile, but never less than the 
minimum visibility for the approach to be flown. For airports without a 
part 97 instrument approach or no special instrument approach 
procedure, the ceiling and visibility minima would be those allowing 
descent from the minimum en route altitude, approach, and landing under 
VFR.
    The FAA notes that the proposal recognizes the differences in 
operating characteristics between helicopters and airplanes. 
Helicopters fly shorter distances at slower airspeeds than most other 
aircraft, carry less fuel than an airplane, and generally remain in the 
air for shorter periods of time between landings. As a result, it is 
often more difficult for a helicopter to fly out of a weather system to 
an alternate destination. In addition, the destination airport and 
alternate airport are likely to be in the same air mass and thus 
experiencing similar weather. Therefore, requiring pilots to use 
increased weather minima when selecting an alternate airport would 
improve the likelihood of landing at the alternate airport if weather 
conditions in the area deteriorate while the helicopter is en route.
    The FAA notes that it adapted this proposal from the current 
alternate airport weather requirement in Sec.  91.169 and from the 
weather minima in Operations Specification H105 issued to part 135 
helicopter operators conducting IFR operations. The FAA also notes that 
the Part 125/135 ARC recommended a similar change.
    Certificate holders would be required to comply with this provision 
by the effective date of the final rule.
2. Equipment Requirements
a. Radio Altimeter (Sec.  135.160)
    The FAA is proposing to add Sec.  135.160 to require radio 
altimeters for all helicopters operated under part 135. Certificate 
holders would have 3 years from the effective date of the final rule to 
comply. Currently, part 135 does not require radio altimeters for any 
aircraft. However, under FAA Operations Specification A050, helicopter 
operators authorized to use night vision goggles in night operations 
are required to use radio altimeters.
    Radio altimeters are designed to inform the pilot of the aircraft's 
actual height above the ground.\41\ A radio altimeter can greatly 
improve a pilot's awareness of height above the ground (AGL) during 
hover, landing in unimproved landing zones (rough field landings), and 
landings in confined areas where a more vertical approach may be 
required. Additionally, radio altimeters help increase situational 
awareness during inadvertent flight into IMC, night operations, and 
flat-light, whiteout, and brownout conditions. In all of these 
conditions, pilots lose their reference to the horizon and to the 
ground.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \41\ A radio altimeter sends a radio wave to the ground and 
determines the height of aircraft above the surface by measuring the 
time it takes for the radio wave to be reflected back to the 
receiving unit. Altitude is then displayed on the aircraft's control 
panel. Additionally, the pilot can select a low altitude indicator 
to alert him or her of a low-altitude situation.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Radio altimeters are proven technology that is relatively low-cost,

[[Page 62658]]

reliable, and user-friendly. According to a January 2009 FAA survey of 
certificate holders authorized to conduct helicopter air ambulance 
operations, 89 percent of helicopter air ambulance operators have 
installed radio altimeters on their aircraft. The FAA estimates, based 
on a sampling of certificate holders, that 75 percent of helicopters 
used in other part 135 operations are currently equipped with radio 
altimeters.
    The FAA believes that the following accident illustrates the type 
of accident that may have been prevented with the use of radio 
altimeters. On May 31, 2006, a Bell 206L-1 helicopter, operating under 
14 CFR part 135 and originating in Juneau, AK, collided with terrain 
while maneuvering in reduced visibility over an ice field. The pilot 
encountered whiteout and flat light conditions, and fog. The pilot and 
two out of the six passengers received minor injuries. During the 
investigation, the pilot stated that he could not ``discern the ground 
below him due to the flat light conditions.'' The NTSB cited ``the 
pilot's failure to maintain adequate altitude/clearance from terrain 
while maneuvering in adverse weather conditions'' as the probable cause 
of the accident. The NTSB further noted that the helicopter was not 
equipped with a radio altimeter. See NTSB Accident Report ANC06LA066 
(Feb. 26, 2007).
    The proposal would respond to NTSB Safety Recommendation A-02-35, 
which was issued after the investigations of several accidents in which 
flat-light or whiteout conditions were mentioned as the probable cause. 
In its recommendation, the NTSB noted that radio altimeters, currently 
not required for helicopters, might aid pilots in recognizing proximity 
to the ground in flat-light and whiteout conditions.
    In addition, the FAA notes that the proposal would respond to the 
Part 125/135 ARC's recommendation to require installation of radio 
altimeters in helicopter air ambulances. For the reasons discussed 
above, however, the FAA is proposing broader use of radio altimeters to 
increase safety in all part 135 rotorcraft operations.
    The FAA notes that this proposed rule would require helicopter air 
ambulances to be equipped with both HTAWS and a radio altimeter. 
Additionally, other commercial helicopter operators may opt to 
voluntarily equip their helicopters with HTAWS. The FAA considered 
whether to permit devices that perform functions similar to radio 
altimeters, such as HTAWS, to satisfy the radio altimeter requirement. 
However, the FAA has determined that either an FAA-approved radio 
altimeter, or other device that measures an aircraft's altitude by 
sending a signal to the ground, should be required because of the 
accuracy of information obtained from those units and the method by 
which that information is collected. Some HTAWS are passive and derive 
the aircraft's ground speed, position, and altitude from a GPS and a 
preprogrammed algorithm database installed and maintained by the HTAWS 
manufacturer. Additionally, altitude indications on such systems often 
rely on the pilot setting the correct barometric pressure, which may 
change rapidly, to obtain an accurate reading. The FAA is concerned 
that passive systems may not provide as accurate an altitude reading 
for pilots experiencing brownout or white-out conditions while close to 
the ground. A radio altimeter is an active system that provides real-
time information to the pilot regarding the aircraft's height above the 
terrain, including elevated heliports and buildings, by sending and 
receiving a signal from the aircraft. Radio altimeters are also not 
subject to variations in barometric pressure. The FAA notes that an 
HTAWS that incorporates or works in conjunction with a radio altimeter 
function would meet the requirements of this proposal. The FAA seeks 
comment on the requirement to install a radio altimeter, and the safety 
benefits of installing both HTAWS and a radio altimeter. The FAA also 
seeks comments on the proposed effective date of this provision.
b. Safety Equipment for Over-Water Flights (Sec. Sec.  1.1, 135.167, 
and 135.168)
    The FAA is proposing to revise the definition of extended over-
water operation in Sec.  1.1 as it applies to helicopters. The FAA also 
is proposing to amend Sec.  135.167 to exclude rotorcraft and add Sec.  
135.168 prescribing graduated emergency equipment requirements for 
rotorcraft based on the distance the rotorcraft is operating from the 
shoreline. Certificate holders would have 3 years from the effective 
date of the final rule to comply with proposed Sec.  135.168.
    Currently, under Sec.  91.205(b)(12) and Sec.  135.183, a 
passenger-carrying helicopter operating over water at an altitude that 
would not permit it to reach land in the event of engine failure must 
be equipped with approved flotation gear for each passenger and, unless 
it is a multiengine helicopter that meets certain performance 
requirements, helicopter floatation devices. Additionally, a helicopter 
engaged in extended over-water operations (currently defined as more 
than 50 NM from the nearest shoreline or offshore heliport structure) 
is required to carry the equipment listed in Sec.  135.167.
    Under proposed Sec.  1.1, the reference to offshore heliport 
structures would be removed from the definition of ``extended over-
water operation'' for helicopters. As a result, any operation conducted 
more than 50 NM from the nearest shoreline would be an extended over-
water operation, regardless of proximity to offshore heliport 
structures. The FAA recognizes that the current rule permits 
helicopters to travel long distances from shore without carrying safety 
equipment other than floatation devices and life preservers, as long as 
they remain within 50 miles of an offshore heliport. In the Gulf of 
Mexico, for example, some offshore oil platforms are located 150 NM 
from the shoreline. The FAA is concerned that offshore heliports may 
not provide the same search and rescue capabilities as are available on 
shore, such as Coast Guard patrols and a greater number of vessels in 
the vicinity. Accordingly, the FAA believes that this change would 
increase safety by eliminating the ability to hopscotch from heliport 
to heliport at great distances from shore without carrying water 
survival safety equipment.
    Under proposed rule Sec.  135.168, a helicopter operating over 
water beyond autorotational distance from the shoreline but within 50 
NM of the shoreline would be required to carry, among other equipment--
life preservers; a 406 megahertz (MHz) emergency locator transmitter 
that meets the requirements of TSO-C126a, 406 MHz Emergency Locator 
Transmitter (ELT), a pyrotechnic signaling device; and electronically 
deployable or externally mounted life rafts. For extended over-water 
operations, a helicopter would need to be equipped with the equipment 
required for over water operations, as well as additional survival 
equipment prescribed in proposed Sec.  135.168.
    The FAA is proposing to require a 406 MHz ELT for several reasons. 
As indicated in previous rulemakings, the 406 MHz ELT provides an 
enhancement and more life-saving benefits, especially for over-water 
operations, than the 121.5/243 MHz ELT. See 65 FR 81316 (Dec. 22, 
2000); 59 FR 32050 (Jun. 21, 1994). These benefits include a narrower 
search area, a stronger signal resulting in less interference, and the 
ability to code the transmitter with the owner's or aircraft's 
identification. Further, as of February 1, 2009, the international 
search-and-rescue satellite system, known as COSPAS-SARSAT, ceased 
monitoring 121.5 MHz ELTs in

[[Page 62659]]

response to guidance from the International Civil Aviation Organization 
(ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO). These 
organizations mandate safety requirements for aircraft and maritime 
vessels and have recognized the limitations of the 121.5 MHz beacons 
and the superior capabilities of the 406 MHz alerting system.
    Among the equipment that would be required under proposed Sec.  
135.168 for operations conducted beyond autorotational distance from 
shore are electronically deployable or externally mounted life rafts. 
The FAA believes that life rafts, in addition to life preservers, are 
necessary safety equipment in the event of ditching. Passengers and 
crewmembers who are forced to exit a helicopter in water may be subject 
to strong currents and waves, making it difficult to swim or float with 
a life preserver for long periods of time. In addition, a person in a 
life raft is not as affected by cold water temperatures and is more 
visible to rescuers than if he or she is in the water. In accidents 
involving over-water operations, rescue aircraft can experience 
difficulty locating and reaching a downed helicopter because of the 
strength of the currents in which a ditching occurred and inaccurate 
coordinates provided by the pilot experiencing the emergency. Passenger 
access to emergency equipment sufficient to remain afloat for the 
period of time it is likely to take a rescue mission to reach the site 
enhances survivability.
    The proposed requirement for electronically deployable or 
externally mounted life rafts would increase the likelihood that these 
items would be available during an emergency. In two accidents 
investigated by the NTSB, helicopters sank before passengers could 
deploy the life rafts that were on board.
    One accident cited by NTSB occurred off the coast of Texas in 2005 
following an in-flight fire and eventual dual-engine power loss. When 
the helicopter, which was operating under part 135, hit the water, it 
sank so rapidly that neither of the two life rafts stored under the 
cabin seats were retrieved before the helicopter sank. The occupants, 
all of whom were wearing personal flotation devices, survived; however, 
some occupants suffered hypothermia during the 7\1/2\ hours that 
elapsed before they were rescued. The NTSB noted that, although the 
survivors' personal flotation devices were equipped with locator 
lights, the U.S. Coast Guard search and rescue crews, using night-
vision goggles, reported that the lights were barely visible at night 
in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. NTSB Accident Report DFW05MA230 
(Apr. 28, 2009).
    In another accident, which occurred in 2003, a helicopter operating 
under part 135 experienced engine failure over the Gulf of Mexico and 
ditched. The pilot and four passengers evacuated and inflated their 
personal flotation devices; however, the pilot and one passenger died 
and the other passengers were seriously injured before the rescue team 
arrived. The helicopter was equipped with a life raft located under the 
cabin seats, but it was not deployed. Surviving passengers indicated 
that they were not briefed about the location of the life raft. The 
NTSB noted ``[w]ith better access to life rafts stored on board the 
aircraft and better signaling devices, occupants would have had a 
greater chance of surviving.'' NTSB Accident Report FTW03FA097 (Apr. 
28, 2005).
    The FAA notes that these proposals address NTSB Safety 
Recommendation A-07-87 that recommends all existing and new turbine-
powered helicopters operating in the Gulf of Mexico and certificated 
with five or more seats be equipped with externally mounted life rafts 
large enough to accommodate all occupants. Additionally, they address 
NTSB Safety Recommendation A-07-88 that recommends all offshore 
helicopter operators in the Gulf of Mexico provide their flight crews 
with personal flotation devices equipped with a waterproof, global-
positioning-system-enabled 406 megahertz personal locater beacon, as 
well as one other signaling device, such as a signaling mirror or 
strobe light.
    Additionally, the Part 125/135 ARC recommended that the FAA amend 
its regulations to base emergency equipment requirements on the 
distance a helicopter operates from the shoreline. The FAA agrees with 
the Part 125/135 ARC's recommendation, and believes its proposed 
changes would result in a higher level of safety because of the 
enhanced safety equipment carried by helicopters operating over water.
    The FAA points out that the proposed safety equipment requirements 
for helicopters differ from those for airplanes. This distinction is 
made for two reasons. First, helicopters generally operate at lower 
altitudes than passenger-carrying aircraft. In the Gulf of Mexico, 
helicopters serving oil rigs typically operate at altitudes below 
10,000 feet. These lower altitudes leave little power-off glide 
capability. Second, airplanes are designed with certain features that 
enable them to float for a period of time after ditching, such as doors 
above the waterline, closeable outflow valves in the wings, and, in 
some airplanes, pressurized cabins. Helicopters do not incorporate 
these design features and behave less predictably when ditched. 
Therefore, the FAA believes that helicopter passengers should have 
additional protections for survival in water if they need to exit the 
helicopter after ditching.
3. Training--Recovery From Inadvertent Flight Into IMC (Sec.  135.293)
    The FAA is proposing to amend Sec.  135.293 to require helicopter 
pilots to demonstrate recovery from an inadvertent IMC encounter and 
understand procedures for aircraft handling in flat-light, whiteout, 
and brownout conditions.
    The current regulations do not require a pilot to demonstrate 
safely maneuvering an aircraft back into VMC following an inadvertent 
flight into IMC during a Sec.  135.293 competency check. Pilots seeking 
a commercial or airline transport pilot (ATP) certificate are not 
required to demonstrate an IMC recovery during the initial examination. 
A demonstration of IMC recovery is not included in the currency 
requirements for any pilot certificate. However, the FAA requires 
demonstration of Lost Procedures and Radio Navigation and Radar 
Services, which contain components similar to IMC recovery procedures 
under, the Commercial Pilot Practical Test Standards for 
Rotorcraft.\42\ In AC 135-14A, the FAA also recommends that helicopter 
air ambulance pilots obtain training in basic instrument flying skills 
to assist in recovery from inadvertent flight into IMC.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \42\ FAA-S-8081-16A.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Under this proposal, Sec.  135.293 would require a pilot to 
demonstrate a realistic course of action that he or she might take to 
escape from inadvertent IMC during a competency check. The FAA 
understands that aircraft are configured differently and instrument 
approaches may not be readily available in all places where helicopters 
operate. Therefore, the FAA would permit flexibility in the method by 
which a pilot meets the demonstration requirement and expects that 
inspectors would approve methods appropriate to the aircraft, 
equipment, and facilities available.
    The proposal would require that the demonstration be scenario-based 
and include attitude instrument flying, recovery from unusual 
attitudes, navigation, ATC communications, and at least one instrument 
approach. The check-pilot should coordinate with ATC, if available, 
before the execution of the scenario to inform ATC that exercises will 
be performed with VFR-

[[Page 62660]]

equipped helicopter and that radar vectors and directional turns will 
be requested. If the aircraft is appropriately equipped and the check 
is conducted at a location where an ILS is operational, the pilot 
should demonstrate an ILS approach. If the pilot is unable to conduct 
an ILS approach, he or she should demonstrate a GPS approach if the 
aircraft is equipped to do so and the pilot is properly trained. If 
neither an ILS nor GPS procedure can be performed, the pilot should 
perform another instrument approach. Partial panel operations, during 
which instrument failure or loss of instrumentation is simulated, 
should be considered if sufficient instruments are available from 
single sources.
    The proposal also would require a pilot to demonstrate knowledge of 
the methods for avoiding the conditions described above and the proper 
aircraft handling on a written or oral test. To satisfy these 
requirements, the FAA anticipates that pilots would receive training on 
items such as landing zone reconnaissance, risk mitigation, maintaining 
situational awareness and decision-making on whether to land or choose 
an alternate landing site.
    This provision would take effect on the effective date of the final 
rule.
    In 2002, the NTSB issued Safety Recommendations A-02-33 and A-02-34 
after investigating five commercial helicopter accidents in Alaska in 
which flat-light or whiteout conditions were thought to be the probable 
cause of the accidents. In its recommendations, the NTSB expressed 
concern that commercial helicopter operators who operate in such 
conditions are not required to be instrument-rated or to demonstrate 
instrument competency, and that those pilots are not provided with the 
training necessary to operate safely in such conditions. The NTSB 
therefore recommended in Safety Recommendation A-02-33 that the FAA 
require all helicopter pilots who conduct commercial, passenger-
carrying flights in areas where flat light or whiteout conditions 
routinely occur to possess a helicopter-specific instrument rating and 
to demonstrate their instrument competency during initial and recurrent 
pilot testing required under 14 CFR 135.293. In addition, in Safety 
Recommendation A-02-34, the NTSB recommended requiring all commercial 
helicopter operators conducting passenger-carrying flights in areas 
where flat light or whiteout conditions routinely occur to include safe 
practices for operating in flat light or whiteout conditions in their 
approved training programs.
    This proposed rule also would address NTSB Safety Recommendation A-
09-87 that calls for development of scenario-based pilot training for 
helicopter air ambulance pilots that included inadvertent flight into 
IMC and hazards unique to helicopter air ambulance operations, and 
determine how frequently this training is required to ensure 
proficiency.

C. Miscellaneous

1. Part 91 Weather Minima (Sec.  91.155)
    The FAA is proposing to revise Sec.  91.155 to prescribe visibility 
minima for helicopters operating under part 91 in Class G airspace. 
Section 91.155(b)(1) currently requires helicopters operating under 
VFR, at 1,200 feet or less above the surface, to remain clear of clouds 
and operate at a speed that permits the pilot adequate opportunity to 
see any air traffic or obstruction in time to avoid a collision. The 
FAA is concerned that the current standard does not provide an adequate 
margin of safety for pilots who may suddenly encounter IMC because of 
rapidly changing weather. The FAA is also concerned that the ``clear of 
clouds'' standard, without an associated minimum visibility, may 
encourage ``scud running'' in which pilots fly at a continually 
decreasing altitude to remain clear of lowering clouds in an attempt to 
stay in VFR conditions.
    Consequently, the FAA is proposing a minimum visibility standard of 
\1/2\ statute mile during the day, and 1 statute mile at night, for 
helicopters operating under VFR at 1,200 feet or less above the surface 
in Class G airspace. This proposal would provide a greater margin of 
safety for operators because pilots would be required to maintain a 
fixed amount of visibility, and would be less likely to suddenly 
encounter IMC. In addition to the proposed visibility minima, the 
proposed rule would retain the current requirement to remain clear of 
clouds.
    This provision would take effect on the effective date of the final 
rule.
2. Load Manifest Requirements for All Part 135 Aircraft (Sec.  135.63)
    The FAA is proposing to revise the requirements of Sec.  135.63 to 
apply to all aircraft operated under part 135 and to permit electronic 
transmission of manifest copies. In considering this proposal for 
commercial operations, the FAA determined this requirement would be 
beneficial for all part 135 operations. Currently, Sec.  135.63 
requires the preparation of a load manifest detailing information such 
as aircraft weight, center of gravity, crewmember identification, and 
other aircraft information before a flight involving a multiengine 
aircraft. The load manifest must be prepared in duplicate, and one copy 
must be carried on board the aircraft to its destination. Section 
135.63 currently does not prescribe any specific action for the copy of 
the load manifest not carried on board the aircraft. However, the FAA 
has advised certificate holders to incorporate procedures in their 
operations manuals for the disposition of the duplicate copy.\43\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \43\ Legal Interpretation to Stanley L. Bernstein, from Rebecca 
B. MacPherson, Assistant Chief Counsel for Regulations (Nov. 11, 
2009), available at http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/agc/pol_adjudication/agc200/Interpretations/.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In the past, multiengine airplanes were the predominant means of 
transportation under part 135. Recently, single-engine passenger 
carrying aircraft have increased in size and capacity and, therefore 
their use in on-demand operations has increased. In 2005, the 125/135 
ARC recommended that the FAA amend load manifest requirements to 
include all part 135 aircraft. The FAA finds that all operators 
carrying passengers for hire must generate a manifest, regardless of 
the type of aircraft operated. In the event of an emergency, the 
operator must be able to account for aircraft occupants and, in the 
case of a fatal or serious accident, contact next of kin. Additionally, 
the FAA believes that, in the event of an accident, load manifest 
information pertaining to the aircraft's weight and balance would be 
useful in determining whether the aircraft was loaded within the 
aircraft's center-of-gravity limits and maximum allowable takeoff 
weight. Therefore a copy of the load manifest should be available if 
the copy on the aircraft is destroyed.
    This proposal would respond to NTSB Safety Recommendation A-99-61. 
That recommendation followed a 1997 accident in which a single-engine 
aircraft operating under part 135 and not equipped with an FDR collided 
with terrain, killing the pilot and all eight passengers. The NTSB 
determined that weight and balance may have played a role. The NTSB 
expressed concern that ``single-engine operators may not consistently 
give weight and balance calculations the attention necessary to ensure 
safe flight,'' and noted that Sec.  135.63(c) currently requires only 
operators of multiengine aircraft to prepare an accurate load manifest 
in duplicate before each take off. The NTSB therefore recommended that 
the FAA amend the regulation ``to apply to single-engine as well as 
multiengine aircraft.''

[[Page 62661]]

    In addition, the FAA is proposing to eliminate the requirement that 
the load manifest be prepared in duplicate for certificate holders who 
elect to electronically transmit the information contained in the load 
manifest to their operations base before take off. A certificate holder 
electing this option would be permitted to transmit the information by 
facsimile, e-mail, online form, or other electronic means and the 
information must be received by the certificate holder's base of 
operations or other approved location before take off. This would 
ensure that the load manifest information is available in the event 
that the copy carried on board the aircraft is destroyed. If a 
certificate holder does not elect to transmit load manifest information 
electronically, it would be required to prepare the load manifest in 
duplicate. Additionally, the proposed rule would require the pilot in 
command to arrange for a copy of the load manifest to be sent to the 
certificate holder, retained in a suitable place at the takeoff 
location, or retained in another location approved by the FAA.
    The FAA notes that the proposed regulation would not alter the 
requirement that a copy of the load manifest must be carried on board 
the aircraft to its final destination, although that copy may be in an 
electronic format. In addition, the proposal would not change the 
required content of the load manifest.
    Certificate holders would be required to comply with this provision 
by the effective date of the final rule.
    While the FAA believes that proposed change could improve safety by 
enhancing pre-flight planning by pilots conducting part 135 operations, 
in its full Regulatory Evaluation (in the public docket for this 
rulemaking) the agency estimates it could impose costs of $134 million 
or $82 million present value. The FAA estimates that the present value 
benefits at 7% over 10 years would be $20 million. The FAA seeks 
comments, accompanied by data, on how these costs could be reduced and 
how benefits could be increased while maintaining an equivalent level 
of safety.

IV. Paperwork Reduction Act

    This proposal contains the following new information collection 
requirements. As required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 
U.S.C. 3507(d)), the FAA has submitted the information requirements 
associated with this proposal to the Office of Management and Budget 
for its review.
    Use: The information collection would enable helicopter air 
ambulance operators to verify that risk analyses are being performed 
and that safety procedures and training requirements are being 
followed. In the event of an accident, the FAA and other entities could 
examine these records.
    Number of Respondents: 17,237.
    Estimate of Annual Burdens: The following proposals would result in 
recordkeeping burdens.
    (1) Require certificate holders performing helicopter air ambulance 
operators to implement pre-flight risk-analysis programs (Sec.  
135.615): This proposal would require that certificate holders outline 
procedures for conducting pre-flight risk-analysis programs in their 
operations manuals.
    The following estimate corresponds to section A.1.d. of the 
economic evaluation.

Cost to Helicopter Air Ambulance Operators To Develop a Pre-Flight Risk 
Analysis Program

Air ambulance operators = 73
Time needed to develop risk analysis program = 60 hours
Salary of helicopter pilot = $48 per hour
First-Year Cost
Cost: 73 x 60 x $48 = $210,240
Time: 73 x 60 = 4,380 hours
Subsequent Years: Per-Year Costs
Cost: $0
Time: 0 hours
Total Over 10 Years
Cost: $210,240
Time: 4,380 hours
Average per Year
Cost: $210,240/10 = $21,024
Time: 4,380 hours/10 = 438 hours

Cost for Pilots To Perform a Pre-Flight Risk Analysis Before Each 
Flight

Air ambulance Helicopters = 989
Operations per year per aircraft = 367
Time needed for risk analysis = 10/60 hour
Salary of helicopter pilot = $48 per hour
First-Year Cost
Cost: 989 x 367 x (10/60) x $48 = $2,903,704
Time: 989 x 367 x (10/60) = 60,494 hours
Subsequent Years: Per-Year Costs
Cost: 989 x 367 x (10/60) x $48 = $2,903,704
Time: 989 x 367 x (10/60) = 60,494 hours
Total Over 10 Years
Cost: $2,903,704 x 10 = $29,037,040
Time: 60,494 hours x 10 = 604,940 hours
Average per Year
Cost: $29,037,040/10 = $2,903,704
Time: 604,940 hours/10 = 60,494 hours

    (2) Require air ambulance operators with 10 or more helicopters to 
have an operations control center to communicate with pilots, advise 
pilots of weather conditions, and provide flight-following services 
(Sec.  135.617): This proposal would require certificate holders to 
train and test operations control specialists and retain records on 
those employees.
    The following estimate corresponds to section A.1.b. of the 
economic evaluation.

Cost of Maintaining Records for the Operations Control Specialists' 
Training and Examinations

Operations control specialists = 288
Time needed for a clerical person to maintain records of the training 
and examinations = 5/60 hour
Salary of clerical person = $26 per hour
First-Year Cost
Cost: 288 x (5/60) x $26 = $624
Time: 288 x (5/60) = 24 hours
Subsequent Years: Per-Year Costs
Cost: 288 x (5/60) x $26 = $624
Time: 288 x (5/60) = 24 hours
Total Over 10 Years
Cost: $624 x 10 = $6,240
Time: 24 hours x 10 = 240 hours

Average per Year
Cost: $6,240/10 = $624
Time: 240 hours/10 = 24 hours

    (3) Require additional VFR flight planning (Sec.  135.613): This 
proposal would require helicopter air ambulance pilots to perform pre-
flight planning. Certificate holders would need to outline procedures 
for pre-flight planning in their operations manuals.
    The following estimate corresponds to section A.1.c. of the 
economic evaluation.

Cost To Helicopter Air Ambulance Operators To Establish Procedures To 
Evaluate, Analyze, and Use Additional VFR Flight Planning in Their 
Operations Manuals

Air ambulance helicopters = 989
Operations per year per aircraft = 367
Time needed for the flight planning = 5/60 hour
Salary of helicopter pilot = $48 per hour
First-Year Cost
Cost: 989 x 367 x (5/60) x $48 = $1,451,852
Time: 989 x 367 x (5/60) = 30,247 hours

[[Page 62662]]

Subsequent Years: Per-Year Costs
Cost: 989 x 367 x (5/60) x $48 = $1,451,852
Time: 989 x 367 x (5/60) = 30,247 hours
Total Over 10 Years
Cost: $1,451,852 x 10 = $14,518,520
Time: 30,247 hours x 10 = 302,470 hours
Average per Year
Cost: $14,518,520/10 = $1,451,852
Time: 302,470 hours/10 = 30,247 hours

    (4) Light-weight aircraft recording system (LARS) on helicopter air 
ambulances: The FAA is seeking comment on whether to require that 
certificate holders install LARS on their helicopter air ambulances and 
outline procedures for evaluating and using LARS data in their 
operations manuals.
    The following estimate corresponds to section A.2.b. of the 
economic evaluation.

One-Time Cost to Helicopter Air Ambulance Operators To Install LARS

Helicopter air ambulances = 989
Unit cost to equip with LARS = $6,450
First-Year Cost
Cost: 989/3 x $6,450 = $2,126,350
Subsequent 2 Years: Per-Year Costs
    Cost: 989/3 x $6,450 = $2,126,350
Total Over 10 years
Cost: $2,126,250 x 3 = $6,379,050
Average per Year
Cost: $6,349,050/10 = $637,905

Cost for LARS Software

Helicopter air ambulances = 989
Cost for LARS software = $750
First-Year Cost
Cost: 989/3 x $750 = $247,250
Second-Year Cost
    Cost: 989 x (\2/3\) x $750 = $494,500
Subsequent Years: Per-Year Costs
Cost: 989 x $750 = $741,750
Total Over 10 Years
Cost: $247,250 + $494,500 + $741,750 x 8 = $6,675,750
Average per Year
Cost: $6,675,750/10 = $667,575

Cost to Helicopter Air Ambulance Operators To Establish Procedures To 
Evaluate, Analyze, and Use LARS Data in Their Operations Manuals

Air ambulance operators = 73
Time needed for chief pilot = 2 hours
Time needed for a clerical person = 6 hours
Salary of chief pilot = $53 per hour
Salary of clerical person = $26 per hour
First-Year Cost
Cost: [73 x 2 x $53] + [73 x 6 x $26] = $19,126
Time: [73 x 2] + [73 x 6] = 584 hours
Subsequent Years: Per-Year Costs
Cost: $0
Time: 0 hours
Total Over 10 Years
Cost: $19,126
Time: 584 hours
Average per Year
Cost: $19,126/10 = $1,913
Time: 584 hours/10 = 58.4 hours

    (5) Require that medical personnel on board helicopter air 
ambulance flights either receive a supplemental safety briefing or 
safety training in lieu of a pre-flight briefing (Sec.  135.619): 
Certificate holders choosing the option to provide safety training 
would be required to retain training records on those employees.
    The following estimate corresponds to section A.1.e. of the 
economic evaluation.

Cost to Certificate Holder for Documenting the Training Provided to 
Medical Personnel

Medical personnel = 10,965
Time needed for a clerical person to document the training = 5/60 hour
Salary of Clerical Person = $26 per hour
First-Year Cost
Cost: 10,965 x (5/60) x $26 = $23,758
Time: 10,965 x (5/60) = 914 hours
Subsequent Years: Per-Year Costs
Cost: 10,965 x (5/60) x $26 = $23,758
Time: 10,965 x (5/60) = 914 hours
Total Over 10 Years
Cost: $23,758 x 10 = $237,580
Time: 914 hours x 10 = 9,140 hours

Average per year.

Cost: $237,580/10 = $23,758
Time: 9,140 hours/10 = 914 hours

    (6) Require preparation of a load manifest by operators of all 
aircraft (not limited to multiengine aircraft) operated under part 135 
(Sec.  135.63): This would amend existing OMB Control Number 2120-0039 
by expanding the applicability from multiengine aircraft to all 
aircraft. The following, therefore, addresses single-engine aircraft 
only.
    The following estimate corresponds to section C.2. of the economic 
evaluation.

Air ambulance aircraft (single-engine) = 108
Commercial aircraft (single-engine) = 3,752
Average number of takeoffs daily = 3
Technical time per takeoff = 5/60 hour
Salary of single-engine pilot = $38 per hour
First-Year Cost
Cost = [(108) x (3) x (365) x (5/60) x ($38)] + [(3,752) x (3) x (365) 
x (5/60) x ($38)] = $13,384,550
Time = [(108) x (3) x (365) x (5/60)] + [(3,752) x (3) x (365) x (5/
60)] = 352,225 hours
Subsequent Years: Per-Year Costs
Cost = [(108) x (3) x (365) x (5/60) x ($38)] + [(3,752) x (3) x (365) 
x (5/60) x ($38)] = $13,384,550
Time = [(108) x (3) x (365) x (5/60)] + [(3,752) x (3) x (365) x (5/
60)] = 352,225 hours
Total Over 10 Years
Cost = $13,384,550 x 10 = $133,845,500
Time = 352,225 hours x 10 = 3,522,250 hours
Average Per Year
Cost = $133,845,500/10 = $13,384,550
Time = 3,522,250 hours/10 = 352,225 hours

    (7) Require that operations control specialists would be subject to 
certificate holders' drug and alcohol testing programs (Sec. Sec.  
120.105 and 120.215): The FAA believes that, because certificate 
holders currently administer and maintain records for drug and alcohol 
testing for other employees (approved under OMB Control Number 2120-
0535), the cost for a clerical person to maintain these records would 
be negligible.
    Summary of all Burden Hours and Costs:

[[Page 62663]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP12OC10.000

    The agency is soliciting comments to--
    (1) Evaluate whether the proposed information requirement is 
necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, 
including whether the information will have practical utility;
    (2) Evaluate the accuracy of the agency's estimate of the burden;
    (3) Enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to 
be collected; and
    (4) Minimize the burden of collecting information on those who are 
to respond, including by using appropriate automated, electronic, 
mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or other forms 
of information technology.
    Individuals and organizations may send comments on the information 
collection requirement by January 10, 2011, and should direct them to 
the address listed in the ADDRESSES section at the beginning of this 
preamble. Comments also should be submitted to the Office of Management 
and Budget, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Attention: 
Desk Officer for FAA, New Executive Building, Room 10202, 725 17th 
Street, NW., Washington, DC 20053.
    According to the 1995 amendments to the Paperwork Reduction Act (5 
CFR 1320.8(b)(2)(vi)), an agency may not collect or sponsor the 
collection of information, nor may it impose an information collection 
requirement unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number. 
The OMB control number for this information collection will be 
published in the Federal Register, after the Office of Management and 
Budget approves it.

V. International Compatibility

    In keeping with U.S. obligations under the Convention on 
International Civil Aviation, it is FAA policy to conform to 
International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Standards and 
Recommended Practices to the maximum extent practicable. The FAA has 
reviewed the corresponding ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices and 
has identified no differences with these proposed regulations.

VI. Regulatory Evaluation, Regulatory Flexibility Determination, 
International Trade Assessment, and Unfunded Mandates Assessment

Regulatory Evaluation

    Changes to Federal regulations must undergo several economic 
analyses. First, Executive Order 12866 directs that each Federal agency 
shall propose or adopt a regulation only upon a reasoned determination 
that the benefits of the intended regulation justify its costs. Second, 
the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 (Pub. L. 96-354) requires 
agencies to analyze the economic impact of regulatory changes on small 
entities. Third, the Trade Agreements Act (Pub. L. 96-39) prohibits 
agencies from setting standards that create unnecessary obstacles to 
the foreign commerce of the United States. In developing U.S. 
standards, this Trade Act requires agencies to consider international 
standards and, where appropriate, that they be the basis of U.S. 
standards. Fourth, the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (Pub. L. 
104-4) requires agencies to prepare a written assessment of the costs, 
benefits, and other effects of proposed or final rules that include a 
Federal mandate likely to result in the expenditure by State, local, or 
tribal governments, in the aggregate, or by the private sector, of $100 
million or more annually (adjusted for inflation with base year of 
1995). This portion of the preamble summarizes the FAA's analysis of 
the economic impacts of this proposed rule. Readers seeking greater 
detail should read the full regulatory evaluation, a copy of which is 
in the docket for this rulemaking.
    In conducting these analyses, FAA has determined that this proposed 
rule: (1) Has benefits that justify its costs; (2) is not an 
economically ``significant regulatory action'' as defined in section 
3(f) of Executive Order 12866; (3) would be otherwise ``significant'' 
as defined in Executive Order 12866 and DOT's Regulatory Policies and 
Procedures; (4) would have a significant economic impact on a 
substantial number of small entities; (5) would not create unnecessary 
obstacles to the foreign commerce of the United States; and (6) would 
not impose an unfunded mandate on state, local, tribal governments, or 
on the private sector by exceeding the threshold identified above. 
These analyses are summarized below.
    The estimated mean benefit value for the air ambulance provisions 
is $270 million or $160 million present value over the next 10 years. 
The estimated mean benefit value for the commercial provisions is $193 
million or $115 million present value over the next 10 years. The FAA 
estimates the cost of this proposed rule for the air ambulance 
provisions would be approximately $210 million ($136 million, present 
value) over the next 10 years. The

[[Page 62664]]

estimated cost of the proposed rule for the commercial provisions would 
be approximately $145 million ($89 million, present value) over the 
next 10 years.
    As noted in the full regulatory evaluation, the FAA is unable to 
estimate the costs of provisions A.1.a, A.3.b, and B.2.a. The FAA calls 
for comments from affected entities requesting that all comments be 
accompanied by clear and detailed supporting economic documentation.

Regulatory Flexibility Determination

    The Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 (RFA) establishes ``as a 
principle of regulatory issuance that agencies shall endeavor, 
consistent with the objective of the rule and of applicable statutes, 
to fit regulatory and informational requirements to the scale of the 
business, organizations, and governmental jurisdictions subject to 
regulation.'' To achieve that principle, the RFA requires agencies to 
solicit and consider flexible regulatory proposals and to explain the 
rationale for their actions. The RFA covers a wide-range of small 
entities, including small businesses, not-for-profit organizations and 
small governmental jurisdictions. The FAA invites public comment on its 
RFA analysis, as detailed below, particularly with respect to the 
number of small entities impacted, the costs for small entities, and 
alternatives to the proposed rule that would meeting the agency's 
statutory objectives in a less burdensome manner.
    Agencies must perform a review to determine whether a proposed or 
final rule will have a significant economic impact on a substantial 
number of small entities. If the agency determines that it will, the 
agency must prepare a regulatory flexibility analysis as described in 
the Act.
    This proposed rule would impact air ambulance, air tour, and on 
demand operators. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) 
classifies businesses as small based on size standards, typically 
expressed in terms of annual revenue or number of employees. SBA 
publishes a table of small business size standards matched to North 
American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes. Table 1 shows 
the size standards for the entities that would be affected by this 
rule.
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP12OC10.001

    Because the FAA did not have actual annual revenues for air 
ambulance operators, the agency estimated them using helicopter counts 
as a revenue driver. The FAA assumed an average of 367 operations per 
year for each helicopter and a revenue charge of $7,000 per operation. 
As such, the FAA estimated that 28 small air ambulance operators (with 
estimated revenues lower than $7 million) out of the 73 air ambulance 
operators would be affected by this proposed regulation. Their 
annualized cost per operation \44\ ranges between $123 and $131. Their 
ratio of annualized cost to annual revenue ranges between 1.76% and 
1.88%, which is significant.\45\ This proposal would impact 
approximately 18 not-for-profit air ambulance operators. Accordingly, 
the FAA prepared a regulatory flexibility analysis for small air 
ambulance operators, as described in the next section.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \44\ Annualized cost per operation equals total annualized costs 
divided by number of helicopter air ambulance operations per year. 
Total annualized cost equals present value cost over 10 years times 
capital recovery factor.
    \45\ This is a lower bound estimate because the FAA was unable 
to estimate the costs of several requirements.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    For air tour operators, the FAA assumed an average of 747 
operations per year for each helicopter and a revenue charge of $1,700 
per operation. As such, the FAA identified 31 small air tour operators 
(with estimated revenues lower than $7 million) out of the 43 air tour 
operators that would be affected by this regulation. Their annualized 
cost per operation ranges between $10 and $24. Their ratio of 
annualized cost to annual revenue ranges between 0.58% and 1.42%, which 
may be significant. Accordingly, the FAA prepared a regulatory 
flexibility analysis for small air tour operators, as described in the 
next section.
    The FAA identified 379 small on demand operators (with 1,500 or 
fewer employees) out of the 380 on demand operators that would be 
affected by this proposed regulation. Although their annualized 
compliance costs ranges between $6,752 and $642,020, the agency is 
unable to estimate their annual revenues because average revenue per 
operation for these entities is not meaningful. There are a number of 
factors (e.g., length of flight, type of helicopter) that determine the 
revenue for an individual operation. These factors are not likely to 
result in a distribution around a meaningful average revenue. The FAA 
seeks comment on the impact to on demand operators as a result of this 
proposal.

Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

    Under section 603(b) of the RFA (as amended), each regulatory 
flexibility analysis is required to address the following points: (1) 
Reasons the agency considered the proposed rule, (2) the objectives and 
legal basis for the proposed rule, (3) the kind and number of small 
entities to which the proposed rule would apply, (4) the reporting, 
recordkeeping, and other compliance requirements of the proposed rule, 
(5) all Federal rules that may duplicate, overlap, or conflict with the 
proposed rule, and (6) alternatives to the proposed rule.

Reasons the FAA Considered the Rule

    See section II. Background.

The Objectives and Legal Basis for the Rule

    The FAA's authority to issue rules on aviation safety is found in 
Title 49 of the United States Code. This rulemaking is promulgated 
under the authority described in 49 U.S.C. 44701(a)(4), which requires 
the Administrator to promulgate regulations in the interest of safety 
for the maximum hours or periods of service of airmen and other 
employees of air carriers, and 49 U.S.C. 44701(a)(5), which requires 
the Administrator to promulgate regulations and minimum standards for 
other practices, methods, and procedures necessary for safety in air 
commerce and national security. As discussed throughout this document, 
the proposal aims to improve safety for air ambulance operations and 
other commercial helicopter operations.

[[Page 62665]]

The Kind and Number of Small Entities to Which the Proposed Rule Would 
Apply

    Based on a review of part 135 certificates and operations 
specifications, the FAA estimates 28 small air ambulance operators and 
31 air tour operators that the proposed rule would impact. The agency 
estimates that these operators have annual revenues between $1.3 
million to $6.3 million.\46\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \46\ Aviation Week, World Aerospace Database, Winter, 2009.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other Compliance Requirements of the 
Proposed Rule

    Reporting, recordkeeping, and other compliance requirements are 
outlined in section IV. Paperwork Reduction Act. The FAA seeks comment 
on whether reporting, recordkeeping, and compliance costs vary from 
small to large entities.

All Federal Rules that May Duplicate, Overlap, or Conflict With the 
Proposed Rule

    The FAA is unaware of any Federal rules that duplicate, overlap, or 
conflict with the proposed rule.

Other Considerations

Affordability Analysis
    For the purpose of this analysis, the degree to which small 
entities can afford the cost of the proposed rule is predicated on the 
availability of financial resources. Costs can be paid from existing 
assets such as cash, by borrowing, through the provision of additional 
equity capital, by accepting reduced profits, by raising prices, or by 
finding other ways of offsetting costs.
    One means of assessing the affordability is the ability of each of 
the small entities to meet its short-term obligations, such as looking 
at net income, working capital and financial strength ratios. According 
to financial literature, a company's short-run financial strength is 
substantially influenced by its working capital position and its 
ability to pay short-term liabilities, among other things. However, the 
FAA was unable to find this type of financial information for the 
affected entities, and so used an alternative way of analyzing 
affordability. The approach used by the FAA was to compare estimated 
revenues with the annualized compliance costs.
    Small air ambulance operators and air tour operators may have 
trouble absorbing the costs of complying with the proposed rule if 
their annualized costs exceed 5 percent of their estimated revenues. 
The idea is that if a business has such a high cost, percentage-wise, 
it would likely have trouble absorbing the costs of complying with the 
proposed rule. The average ratio of annualized cost to estimated annual 
revenue for small air ambulance operators and air tour operators ranges 
between 0.58% and 1.88%. Thus, the FAA expects that small air 
ambulances and air tour operators would not have trouble absorbing the 
costs of complying with this rule.
    Related to this analysis, the FAA seeks comment on whether the 
economic impact on small entities is significant.
Competitiveness Analysis
    For small air ambulance and air tour operators, the ratio of 
annualized cost to estimated annual revenue ranges between 0.58% and 
1.88%. For large air ambulance and air tour operators, it ranges 
between 0.62% and 2.4%. The FAA expects that based on these results, 
there would be little change in the competitiveness of small air 
ambulance and air tour operators relative to large operators.
Alternatives
    Alternative One--The current proposal would give certificate 
holders three years from the effective date to install all required 
pieces of equipment. This alternative would change the compliance date 
to four years after the effective rule date. This would help small 
business owners cope with the burden of the expenses because they would 
be able to integrate these pieces of equipment over a longer period of 
time.
    Conclusion--This alternative is not preferred because it would 
delay safety enhancements. Thus, the FAA does not consider this to be 
an acceptable alternative in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 603(c).
    Alternative Two--This alternative would exclude the HTAWS unit from 
the rulemaking proposal. Although this alternative would reduce 
annualized costs to small air ambulance operators by approximately 12% 
and the ratio of annualized cost to annual revenue would decrease from 
a range of between 1.76% and 1.88% to a range of between 1.55% and 
1.65%, the annualized cost of the proposed rule would still be 
significant for all 35 small air ambulance operators. Since all 35 
small air ambulance operators would still be significantly impacted by 
this alternative, the alternative not only does not eliminate the 
problem for a substantial number of small entities, but also it would 
reduce safety.
    Conclusion--The HTAWS is an outstanding tool for situational 
awareness and to help helicopter air ambulance pilots during nighttime 
operations. This equipment is a great enhancement for situational 
awareness in all aspects of flying including day, night, and instrument 
meteorological conditions. Therefore the FAA believes that this 
equipment is a significant enhancement for safety throughout all 
aspects of helicopter operations. The accident data shows that the 
HTAWS provision could have prevented many air ambulance accidents if 
this equipage was available at the time of the accident. Thus the FAA 
does not consider this to be an acceptable alternative in accordance 
with 5 U.S.C. 603(c).
    Alternative Three--The alternative would increase the requirement 
of certificate holders from 10 to 15 helicopters or more that are 
engaged in helicopter air ambulance operations to have an Operations 
Control Center.
    Conclusion--The FAA believes that operators with 10 or more 
helicopters engaged in air ambulance operations would cover 66% of the 
total population of the air ambulance fleet in the U.S. The FAA 
believes that operators with 15 or more helicopters would decrease the 
coverage of the population to 50%. Furthermore, complexity issues arise 
and considerably increase with operators of more than 10 helicopters. 
Thus the FAA does not consider this to be an acceptable alternative in 
accordance with 5 U.S.C. 603(c).
    The FAA invites public comment on the conclusions reached with 
regard to the alternatives outlined above.
Conclusion
    The FAA has determined that this proposed rule would have a 
significant impact on a substantial number of small helicopter air 
ambulance and air tour operators. Because the agency is unable to 
estimate annual revenues for on-demand operators, the FAA cannot 
determine whether the proposed rule would have a significant impact on 
a substantial number of on-demand operators. The FAA believes that 
small helicopter air ambulance and air tour operators would be able to 
afford the proposed rule and would remain competitive. While small 
entities would likely be able to afford the proposal, the FAA seeks 
comment on whether small entities will be able to remain competitive 
under the proposal.

International Trade Impact Assessment

    The Trade Agreements Act of 1979 (Pub. L. 96-39), as amended by the

[[Page 62666]]

Uruguay Round Agreements Act (Pub. L. 103-465), prohibits Federal 
agencies from establishing standards or engaging in related activities 
that create unnecessary obstacles to the foreign commerce of the United 
States. Pursuant to these Acts, the establishment of standards is not 
considered an unnecessary obstacle to the foreign commerce of the 
United States, so long as the standard has a legitimate domestic 
objective, such as the protection of safety, and does not operate in a 
manner that excludes imports that meet this objective. The statute also 
requires consideration of international standards and, where 
appropriate, that they be the basis for U.S. standards. The FAA has 
assessed the potential effect of this proposed rule and determined that 
it would have only a domestic impact and therefore will not create 
unnecessary obstacles to the foreign commerce of the United States.

Unfunded Mandates Assessment

    Title II of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (Pub. L. 104-
4) requires each Federal agency to prepare a written statement 
assessing the effects of any Federal mandate in a proposed or final 
agency rule that may result in an expenditure of $100 million or more 
(in 1995 dollars) in any one year by State, local, and tribal 
governments, in the aggregate, or by the private sector; such a mandate 
is deemed to be a ``significant regulatory action.'' The FAA currently 
uses an inflation-adjusted value of $136.1 million in lieu of $100 
million. This proposed rule does not contain such a mandate; therefore, 
the requirements of Title II of the Act do not apply.

VII. Executive Order 13132, Federalism

    The FAA has analyzed this proposed rule under the principles and 
criteria of Executive Order 13132, Federalism. The agency determined 
that this action would not have a substantial direct effect on the 
States, on the relationship between the national Government and the 
States, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the 
various levels of government, and, therefore, would not have federalism 
implications.

VIII. Regulations Affecting Intrastate Aviation in Alaska

    Section 1205 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 1996 (110 Stat. 
3213) requires the Administrator, when modifying regulations in title 
14 of the CFR in a manner affecting intrastate aviation in Alaska, to 
consider the extent to which Alaska is not served by transportation 
modes other than aviation, and to establish appropriate regulatory 
distinctions. Because this proposed rule would apply to helicopter air 
ambulance, commercial helicopter, and general aviation operations, the 
FAA specifically requests comments on whether there is justification 
for applying the proposed rule differently in intrastate operations in 
Alaska.

IX. Environmental Analysis

    FAA Order 1050.1E identifies FAA actions that are categorically 
excluded from preparation of an environmental assessment or 
environmental impact statement under the National Environmental Policy 
Act in the absence of extraordinary circumstances. The FAA has 
determined this proposed rulemaking action qualifies for the 
categorical exclusion identified in paragraph 312f. Additionally, the 
FAA reviewed paragraph 304 of Order 1050.1E and determined that this 
rulemaking involves no extraordinary circumstances.

X. Regulations That Significantly Affect Energy Supply, Distribution, 
or Use

    The FAA has analyzed this NPRM under Executive Order 13211, Actions 
Concerning Regulations That Significantly Affect Energy Supply, 
Distribution, or Use (May 18, 2001). The agency has determined that it 
is not a ``significant regulatory action'' under Executive Order 13211 
because it is not likely to have a significant adverse effect on the 
supply, distribution, or use of energy. The NPRM is, however, 
``significant'' under DOT's Regulatory Policies and Procedures.

XI. Availability of Rulemaking Documents

    You can get an electronic copy of rulemaking documents using the 
Internet by--
    1. Searching the Federal eRulemaking Portal (http://www.regulations.gov);
    2. Visiting the FAA's Regulations and Policies web page at http://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies or
    3. Accessing the Government Printing Office's Web page at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/index.html.
    You can also get a copy by sending a request to the Federal 
Aviation Administration, Office of Rulemaking, ARM-1, 800 Independence 
Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20591, or by calling (202) 267-9680. Make 
sure to identify the docket number, notice number, or amendment number 
of this rulemaking.
    You may access all documents the FAA considered in developing this 
proposed rule, including economic analyses and technical reports, from 
the Internet through the Federal eRulemaking Portal referenced in 
paragraph (1).

XI. Additional Information

Comments Invited

    The FAA invites interested persons to participate in this 
rulemaking by submitting written comments, data, or views. We also 
invite comments relating to the economic, environmental, energy, or 
federalism impacts that might result from adopting the proposals in 
this document. The most helpful comments reference a specific portion 
of the proposal, explain the reason for any recommended change, and 
include supporting data. To ensure the docket does not contain 
duplicate comments, please send only one copy of written comments, or 
if you are filing comments electronically, please submit your comments 
only one time.
    We will file in the docket all comments we receive, as well as a 
report summarizing each substantive public contact with FAA personnel 
concerning this proposed rulemaking. Before acting on this proposal, we 
will consider all comments we receive on or before the closing date for 
comments. We will consider comments filed after the comment period has 
closed if it is possible to do so without incurring expense or delay. 
We may change this proposal in light of the comments we receive.

Proprietary or Confidential Business Information

    Do not file in the docket information that you consider to be 
proprietary or confidential business information. Send or deliver this 
information directly to the person identified in the FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT section of this document. You must mark the 
information that you consider proprietary or confidential. If you send 
the information on a disk or CD ROM, mark the outside of the disk or CD 
ROM and also identify electronically within the disk or CD ROM the 
specific information that is proprietary or confidential.
    Under 14 CFR 11.35(b), when we are aware of proprietary information 
filed with a comment, we do not place it in the docket. We hold it in a 
separate file to which the public does not have access, and we place a 
note in the docket that we have received it. If we receive a request to 
examine or copy this information, we treat it as any other request 
under the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552). We process such a 
request under the DOT procedures found in 49 CFR part 7.

[[Page 62667]]

Appendix to the Preamble--Additional Accidents Discussions

    The following is a list of accidents (listed with reference to the 
associated preamble discussions) illustrative of the type that the FAA 
believes this proposal may have prevented.

A. Helicopter Air Ambulance Operations

1. Operational Procedures

b. Operational Control Center
    On July 13, 2004, a Bell 407 helicopter, operating under 14 CFR 
part 135, collided with trees resulting in fatal injuries to the pilot, 
medical personnel and patient on board. The pilot performed a weather 
check before accepting the flight and was provided flight monitoring by 
the Spartanburg County Communications 911 Department of the Spartanburg 
County Office of Emergency Services. The flight was conducted in night 
visual, meteorological conditions were present, with mist and light fog 
prevailing in the area of the accident site. The accident pilot was not 
informed that other pilots had declined this mission due to fog. The 
NTSB cited the pilot's failure to maintain terrain clearance as the 
cause of the accident, and contributing factors included ``inadequate 
weather and dispatch information relayed to the pilot.'' See NTSB 
Accident Report CHI04MA182 (Jan. 26, 2006).
d. Preflight Risk Analysis
    On August 21, 2004, a Bell 407 helicopter, operating under 14 CFR 
part 135 and en route to Washoe Medical Center in Reno, Nevada, 
collided with mountainous terrain resulting in fatal injuries to the 
pilot, two medical personnel, the patient's mother, and the infant 
patient. The pilot had a choice of two routes, and he chose the direct 
route over mountainous terrain instead of the route following the I-80 
which was 10 minutes longer. The pilot chose the route through 
mountainous terrain. The NTSB noted that there was no indication that 
the pilot obtained a weather briefing before departure and that if he 
had ``he would have likely learned of the cloud cover and light 
precipitation present along his planned route of flight.'' The NTSB 
cited the pilot's lack of maintaining sufficient clearance of 
mountainous terrain as the cause of this accident, and other 
contributing factors such as the pilot's improper decision to take the 
direct route over mountainous terrain in dark night conditions. See 
NTSB Accident Report SEA04MA167 (Jan. 26, 2006).
    On November 29, 1998, a McDonnell Douglas MD-900 helicopter, en 
route to St. Alphonsus hospital heliport in Boise, ID, and operating 
under 14 CFR part 135, struck unmarked transmission wires when 
departing from a car accident site resulting in major damage to four of 
the five main rotor blades. No injuries were sustained by the flight 
crew, medical personnel, or patient on board. The NTSB cited the pilot 
and ground crew's failure to identify the existence of the wires as 
factors contributing to this accident. The FAA believes that a pre-
flight review of the proposed landing site may have prevented this 
accident. See NTSB Accident Report SEA99LA016 (Jan. 11, 2000).
    On November 19, 1993, a Bell 206L helicopter, operating under part 
135 rules landed hard in the Atlantic Ocean resulting in fatal injuries 
to all three passengers and serious injuries to the pilot during 
nighttime conditions. The pilot, operating at night under VFR, 
encountered inadvertent IMC and crashed. The NTSB determined the cause 
of the accident was the pilot's continued VFR flight into IMC, and 
contributing factors included weather, dark night, and rough sea 
conditions. See NTSB Accident Report BFO94FA013 (Nov. 1, 1994).

2. Equipment Requirements

a. Helicopter Terrain Awareness and Warning Systems
    On December 12, 1996, a Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohn BO-105CBS 
helicopter, operating under part 135, collided with terrain at night in 
instrument conditions while transporting a patient to a hospital in 
Rochester, NY. Witnesses observed that cloud cover and the isolated 
area made for a dark night with no discernable horizon. About two 
minutes after the pilot's departure for the hospital, the helicopter 
collided with terrain resulting in fatal injuries to all on board. The 
NTSB stated the cause for this accident was ``the pilot's failure to 
maintain altitude/clearance from the terrain,'' and other factors 
relating to the accident included ``darkness, low ceiling, rising 
terrain, and high wind condition.'' See NTSB Accident Report IAD97FA032 
(Jul. 31, 2008).
b. Light-Weight Aircraft Recording System (LARS)
    On June 29, 2008, two Bell 407 helicopters collided in midair while 
approaching the Flagstaff Medical Center helipad. Both helicopters were 
destroyed, and all seven persons aboard the two aircraft were fatally 
injured. Day VMC prevailed. The NTSB determined that the probable cause 
of this accident was both helicopter pilots' failure to see and avoid 
the other helicopter on approach to the helipad. Contributing to the 
accident were the failure of the pilot of one of the helicopters to 
follow arrival and noise abatement guidelines and the failure of the 
pilot of the other helicopter to follow communications guidelines. The 
NTSB noted that ``had either operator established a formal flight-
monitoring program, the use of non-standard procedures might have led 
the operators to take corrective action that could have prevented the 
two helicopters from arriving at the same helipad on different approach 
angles that particular day.'' See NTSB Accident Report DEN08MA116A/B 
(May 7, 2009).
    On May 27, 1993, an Aerospatiale AS 350B helicopter, operating 
under 14 CFR part 135, crashed into terrain near Cameron, MO, resulting 
in fatal injuries to the pilot and patient and serious injuries to 
medical personnel. The NTSB found that the accident was a result of 
loss of engine power due to the failure of the second state turbine 
labyrinth seal. In its factual report, the NTSB noted that aircraft 
manufacturer representatives described that a crack could develop under 
thermal low cycle fatigue, then develop as `` `subsequent distortion 
leads to rub between the inner diameter of the hub and the inner 
turbine labyrinth lips.' '' An appropriately equipped LARS could 
capture audio files for acoustic analysis of dynamic components in the 
event of an accident or incident. Such mechanical failures could be 
detectable by LARS equipped to record ambient audio files. See NTSB 
Accident Report CHI93FA182 (Jun. 24, 1994).

B. Commercial Helicopter Operations (Including Air Ambulance 
Operations)

2. Equipment Requirements

a. Radar Altimeter
    On July 23, 2003, a Bell 206B helicopter, operating under 14 CFR 
part 135, crashed into the inside wall of the Waialeale Crater, Kauai, 
HI, fatally injuring the pilot and all four passengers. This 
sightseeing tour originated at the Lihue Airport in Kauai under VFR 
conditions. During the flight, the pilot encountered clouds and a low 
ceiling. The pilot descended into the mountain side. The NTSB 
determined the probable cause of this accident was the pilot's failure 
to maintain ``adequate terrain clearance/altitude while descending over 
mountainous terrain'' and continued flight into adverse weather. The 
contributing factors were clouds and a low ceiling. See NTSB

[[Page 62668]]

Accident Report LAX03FA241 (Sept. 14, 2007).
    On January 10, 2005, a Eurocopter Deutschland GmbH EC-135 P2 
helicopter, operating under part 91, crashed in the Potomac River, 
fatally injuring the pilot and paramedic and seriously injuring the 
flight nurse. During low-altitude cruise flight, the helicopter 
impacted water without any distress warning from the pilot. The NTSB 
noted the cause of this accident was ``the pilot's failure to identify 
and arrest the helicopter's descent, which resulted in controlled 
flight into terrain.'' Other factors identified by the NTSB included 
the dark night conditions and a lack of an operable radio altimeter. 
NTSB Accident Report NYC05MA039 (Dec. 20, 2007).

3. Training--Recovery From Inadvertent Flight Into IMC

    On September 20, 1995, a Bell 206L helicopter, operating under 14 
CFR part 91, was substantially damaged after the pilot inadvertently 
encountered IMC and lost control. The NTSB found that the pilot's 
failure to maintain control of the helicopter was the cause of this 
accident. It cited the pilot's inadvertent VFR flight into IMC 
conditions as a factor contributing to the accident. See NTSB Accident 
ID CHI95LA327.
    On December 23, 2003, an Augusta A109A helicopter, operated under 
part 91 en route to pick up a patient during a helicopter air ambulance 
operation, collided with mountainous terrain near Redwood Valley, CA, 
while trying to reverse course following an encounter with night IMC. 
The crash fatally injured all on board and destroyed the helicopter. 
The NTSB determined the cause of the accident was the pilot's improper 
in-flight planning and decision to continue flight under visual flight 
rules into deteriorating weather conditions which resulted in an 
inadvertent in-flight encounter with IMC. See NTSB Accident ID 
LAX04FA076.

List of Subjects

14 CFR Part 1

    Air transportation.

14 CFR Part 91

    Aircraft, Airmen, Aviation safety, Reporting and recordkeeping 
requirements.

14 CFR Part 120

    Airmen, Alcohol abuse, Alcoholism, Alcohol testing, Aviation 
safety, Drug abuse, Drug testing, Operators, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Safety, Safety-sensitive, Transportation.

14 CFR Part 135

    Air taxis, Aircraft, Airmen, Aviation safety, Incorporation by 
reference, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

The Proposed Amendment

    In consideration of the foregoing, the Federal Aviation 
Administration proposes to amend chapter I of title 14, Code of Federal 
Regulations, as follows:

PART 1--DEFINITIONS AND ABBREVIATIONS

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

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

    2. Amend Sec.  1.1 by revising the definition of ``Extended over-
water operation'' to read as follows:


Sec.  1.1  General definitions.

* * * * *
    Extended over-water operation means an operation over water at a 
horizontal distance of more than 50 nautical miles from the nearest 
shoreline.
* * * * *

PART 91--GENERAL OPERATING AND FLIGHT RULES

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

    Authority:  49 U.S.C. 106(g), 1155, 40103, 40113, 40120, 44101, 
44111, 44701, 44704, 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).

    4. Amend Sec.  91.155 by revising paragraph (b)(1) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  91.155  Basic VFR weather minimums.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (1) Helicopter. A helicopter may be operated clear of clouds if 
operated at a speed that allows the pilot adequate opportunity to see 
and avoid other air traffic or obstruction in time to avoid a 
collision, provided the visibility is at least--
    (i) One half statute mile during the day; or
    (ii) One statute mile at night.
* * * * *

PART 120--DRUG AND ALCOHOL TESTING PROGRAM

    5. The authority citation for part 120 continues to read as 
follows:

    Authority:  49 U.S.C. 106(g), 40101-40103, 40113, 40120, 41706, 
41721, 44106, 44701, 44702, 44703, 44709, 44710, 44711, 45101-45105, 
46105, 46306.

    6. Amend Sec.  120.105 by adding paragraph (i) to read as follows:


Sec.  120.105  Employees who must be tested.

* * * * *
    (i) Operations control specialist duties.
    7. Amend Sec.  120.215 by adding paragraph (a)(9) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  120.215  Covered employees.

    (a) * * *
    (9) Operations control specialist duties.
* * * * *

PART 135--OPERATING REQUIREMENTS: COMMUTER AND ON DEMAND OPERATIONS 
AND RULES GOVERNING PERSONS ON BOARD SUCH AIRCRAFT

    8. The authority citation for part 135 continues to read as 
follows:

    Authority:  49 U.S.C. 106(g), 41706, 40113, 44701-44702, 44705, 
44709, 44711-44713, 44715-44717, 44722, 45101-45105.

    9. Amend Sec.  135.1 by adding paragraph (a)(9) to read as follows:


Sec.  135.1  Applicability.

    (a) * * *
    (9) Helicopter air ambulance operations with medical personnel, as 
defined in Sec.  135.601(b)(4), on board the aircraft.
* * * * *
    10. Amend Sec.  135.63 by revising the introductory text of 
paragraph (c) and revising paragraph (d) to read as follows:


Sec.  135.63  Recordkeeping requirements.

* * * * *
    (c) Each certificate holder is responsible for the preparation and 
accuracy of a load manifest containing information concerning the 
loading of the aircraft. The manifest must be prepared in duplicate 
unless the certificate holder receives a copy of the load manifest, by 
electronic or other means, at its principal operations base or at 
another location used by it and approved by the FAA prior to the 
aircraft's take off. The load manifest must be prepared before each 
take off and must include:
* * * * *
    (d) The pilot in command of an aircraft for which a load manifest 
must be prepared must carry a copy of the completed load manifest in 
the aircraft to its destination and, unless the certificate holder 
receives a copy of the load manifest prior to take off as provided for 
in paragraph (c) of this section, arrange at the takeoff location for a 
copy to be sent to the certificate

[[Page 62669]]

holder, retained in a suitable place at the takeoff location, or 
retained in another location approved by the FAA until the flight is 
complete. The certificate holder shall keep copies of completed load 
manifests for at least 30 days at its principal operations base, or at 
another location used by it and approved by the FAA.
    11. Add Sec.  135.160 to read as follows:


Sec.  135.160  Radio altimeters for rotorcraft operations.

    After [DATE 3 YEARS AFTER EFFECTIVE DATE OF THE FINAL RULE], no 
person may operate a rotorcraft unless that rotorcraft is equipped with 
an operable FAA-approved radio altimeter, or an FAA-approved device 
that incorporates a radio altimeter, unless otherwise authorized in the 
certificate holder's approved minimum equipment list.
    12. Amend Sec.  135.167 by revising the section heading and the 
introductory text of paragraph (a) to read as follows:


Sec.  135.167  Emergency equipment: Extended over-water operations--
Aircraft other than rotorcraft.

    (a) Except where the FAA amends the operations specifications of 
the certificate holder to require the carriage of any or all specific 
items of the equipment listed below for any over-water operation, or 
allows a deviation for a particular extended over-water operation in 
response to an application by a certificate holder, no person may 
operate an aircraft other than a rotorcraft in extended over-water 
operations unless it carries, installed in conspicuously marked 
locations easily accessible to the occupants if a ditching occurs, the 
following equipment:
* * * * *
    13. Add Sec.  135.168 to read as follows:


Sec.  135.168  Emergency equipment: Over-water and extended over-water 
operations--Rotorcraft.

    (a) For purposes of this section, the following definitions apply--
    (1) Over-water operation: A flight beyond autorotational distance 
from the shoreline.
    (2) Shoreline means that area of the land adjacent to the water of 
an ocean, sea, lake, pond, river, or tidal basin that is above the 
high-water mark at which a rotorcraft could be landed safely. This does 
not include land areas which are unsuitable for landing such as 
vertical cliffs or land intermittently under water.
    (b) Over-water operations. After [DATE 3 YEARS AFTER EFFECTIVE DATE 
OF THE FINAL RULE], except where the FAA amends the operations 
specifications of the certificate holder to require the carriage of all 
or any specific items of the equipment listed below, allows a deviation 
for a particular operation, or the over-water operation is necessary 
only for takeoff or landing, no person may operate a rotorcraft in 
over-water operations unless it carries, installed in conspicuously 
marked locations easily accessible to the occupants in the event of an 
emergency water landing, the following equipment:
    (1) Approved life preservers equipped with an approved survivor 
locator light, which must be worn by each occupant of the rotorcraft 
from take off until the flight is no longer over water;
    (2) One approved pyrotechnic signaling device;
    (3) Enough life rafts of a rated capacity and buoyancy to 
accommodate the maximum number of occupants the rotorcraft is 
certificated to carry;
    (4) An approved, automatically deployable, survival-type emergency 
locator transmitter (ELT) in each life raft. Batteries used in ELTs 
must be maintained in accordance with the following --
    (i) Non-rechargeable batteries must be replaced when the 
transmitter has been in use for more than 1 cumulative hour or when 50 
percent of their useful lives have expired, as established by the 
transmitter manufacturer under its approval. The new expiration date 
for replacing the batteries must be legibly marked on the outside of 
the transmitter. The battery useful life requirements of this paragraph 
do not apply to batteries (such as water-activated batteries) that are 
essentially unaffected during probable storage intervals; or
    (ii) Rechargeable batteries used in the transmitter must be 
recharged when the transmitter has been in use for more than 1 
cumulative hour or when 50 percent of their useful-life-of-charge has 
expired, as established by the transmitter manufacturer under its 
approval. The new expiration date for recharging the batteries must be 
legibly marked on the outside of the transmitter. The battery useful-
life-of-charge requirements of this paragraph do not apply to batteries 
(such as water-activated batteries) that are essentially unaffected 
during probable storage intervals;
    (5) Each life raft required under this paragraph must be 
electronically deployable, or externally mounted and accessible, and 
equipped with--
    (i) One survival kit, appropriate for the route to be flown, or
    (ii) Contain at least the following--
    (A) One approved day/night signaling device;
    (B) One life raft repair kit;
    (C) One bailing bucket;
    (D) One signaling mirror;
    (E) One police whistle;
    (F) One raft knife;
    (G) One inflation pump;
    (H) One 75-foot retaining line;
    (I) One magnetic compass;
    (J) One dye marker or equivalent; and
    (K) One fishing kit.
    (c) Extended over-water operations. After [DATE 3 YEARS AFTER 
EFFECTIVE DATE OF THE FINAL RULE], except where the FAA amends the 
operations specifications of the certificate holder to require the 
carriage of all or any specific items of the equipment listed below or 
allows a deviation for a particular operation, no person may operate a 
rotorcraft in extended over-water operations unless it carries, 
installed in conspicuously marked locations easily accessible to the 
occupants in the event of an emergency water landing, the following 
equipment:
    (1) Approved life preservers equipped with an approved survivor 
locator light, which must be worn by each occupant of the rotorcraft 
during the duration of the flight
    (2) The equipment listed in paragraphs (b)(2) through (b)(4) of 
this section;
    (3) One flashlight having at least two operable size ``D'' cell or 
equivalent batteries; and
    (4) Each life raft required under this paragraph must be 
electronically deployable or externally mounted and accessible, and 
equipped with or contain at least the following--
    (i) The equipment listed in paragraph (b)(5) of this section;
    (ii) One radar reflector;
    (iii) One canopy (for sail, sunshade, or rain catcher);
    (iv) Two pints of water per each person the life raft is rated to 
carry, or one sea water desalting kit for each two persons the life 
raft is rated to carry; and
    (v) One book on survival appropriate for the area in which the 
rotorcraft is operated.
    (d) Passenger Briefing. Passengers carried in over-water or 
extended over-water operations must be briefed on the following:
    (1) Procedures for fastening and unfastening seatbelts;
    (2) Procedures for opening exits and exiting the rotorcraft;
    (3) Procedures for water ditching;
    (4) Requirements for the use of life preservers;
    (5) Procedures for emergency exit from the rotorcraft in the event 
of a water landing; and
    (6) The location and use of life rafts and other floatation devices 
prior to flight.
    (e) Maintenance. The equipment required by this section must be

[[Page 62670]]

maintained in accordance with Sec.  135.419.
    (f) ELT Standards. The ELT required by paragraph (b)(4) of this 
section must meet the requirements in Technical Standard Order (TSO)-
C126a. Technical Standard Order C126a, 406 MHz Emergency Locator 
Transmitter (ELT), December 17, 2008, is incorporated by reference into 
this section with the approval of the Director of the Office of the 
Federal Register under 5 U.S.C. 552(a) and 1 CFR part 51. Copies may be 
obtained from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Subsequent 
Distribution Office, DOT Warehouse M30, Ardmore East Business Center, 
3341 Q 75th Avenue, Landover, MD 20785; telephone (301) 322-5377. 
Copies are also available on the FAA's Web site. Use the following 
link: http://www.airweb.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library/
rgTSO.nsf/0/0ac772bbed9b95a586257523007629b3/$FILE/TSO-C126a.pdf. All 
approved material is available for inspection at the National Archives 
and Records Administration (NARA). For information on the availability 
of this material at NARA, call 202-741-6030 or go to http://www.archives.gov/federal_register/code_of_federal_regulations/ibr_locations.html.
    (g) ELT Alternative Compliance. Operators with an ELT required by 
paragraph (b)(4) of this section that meets a later version of TSO-
C126a, or an ELT with an approved deviation under Sec.  21.609 of this 
chapter, also are in compliance with this section.
    14. Revise Sec.  135.221 to read as follows:


Sec.  135.221  IFR: Alternate airport weather minima.

    (a) Aircraft other than rotorcraft. No person may designate an 
alternate airport unless the weather reports or forecasts, or any 
combination of them, indicate that the weather conditions will be at or 
above authorized alternate airport landing minima for that airport at 
the estimated time of arrival.
    (b) Rotorcraft. Unless otherwise authorized by the FAA, no person 
may include an alternate airport or heliport in an IFR flight plan 
unless appropriate weather reports or weather forecasts, or a 
combination of them, indicate that, at the estimated time of arrival at 
the alternate airport or heliport, the ceiling and visibility at that 
airport or heliport will be at or above the following weather minima -
    (1) If, for that airport or heliport, an instrument approach 
procedure has been published in part 97 of this chapter, or a special 
instrument approach procedure has been issued by the FAA to the 
operator, the ceiling is 200 feet above the minimum for the approach to 
be flown, and visibility is at least 1 statute mile but never less than 
the minimum visibility for the approach to be flown.
    (2) If, for the alternate airport or heliport, no instrument 
approach procedure has been published in part 97 of this chapter and no 
special instrument approach procedure has been issued by the FAA to the 
operator, the ceiling and visibility minima are those allowing descent 
from the MEA, approach, and landing under basic VFR.
    15. Amend Sec.  135.267 by adding paragraph (g) to read as follows:


Sec.  135.267  Flight time limitations and rest requirements: 
Unscheduled one- and two-pilot crews.

* * * * *
    (g) For purposes of this section the term ``flight time'' includes 
any helicopter air ambulance operation with medical personnel, as 
defined in Sec.  135.601, on board the helicopter.
    16. Amend Sec.  135.271 by adding paragraph (j) to read as follows:


Sec.  135.271  Helicopter hospital emergency medical evacuation service 
(HEMES).

* * * * *
    (j) For purposes of this section the term ``flight time'' includes 
any HEMES operations with medical personnel, as defined in Sec.  
135.601, on board the helicopter.
    17. Amend Sec.  135.293 by--
    a. Removing the word ``and'' from the end of paragraph (a)(7)(iii);
    b. Removing the period and adding ``; and'' in its place at the end 
of paragraph (a)(8);
    c. Adding paragraph (a)(9);
    d. Redesignating paragraphs (c) through (f) as paragraphs (d) 
through (g) respectively; and
    e. Adding new paragraph (c).
    The additions read as follows:


Sec.  135.293  Initial and recurrent pilot testing requirements.

    (a) * * *
    (9) For rotorcraft pilots, procedures for aircraft handling in 
flat-light, whiteout, and brownout conditions, including methods for 
recognizing and avoiding those conditions.
* * * * *
    (c) Each competency check for a rotorcraft pilot must include a 
demonstration of the pilot's ability to maneuver the rotorcraft solely 
by reference to instruments. The check must determine the pilot's 
ability to safely maneuver the rotorcraft into visual meteorological 
conditions following an inadvertent encounter with instrument 
meteorological conditions. For competency checks in non-IFR-certified 
rotorcraft, the pilot must perform such maneuvers as are appropriate to 
the rotorcraft's installed equipment, the certificate holder's 
operations specifications, and the operating environment.
* * * * *


Sec.  135.297  [Amended]

    18. Amend Sec.  135.297 by removing the reference to ``Sec.  
135.293 (d)'' and adding ``Sec.  135.293 (e)'' in its place in the last 
sentence of paragraph (c) introductory text.
    19. Add subpart L to part 135 to read as follows:

Subpart L--Helicopter Air Ambulance Equipment, Operations, and Training 
Requirements
Sec.
135.601 Applicability and definitions.
135.603 Pilot-in-command qualifications.
135.605 Helicopter terrain awareness and warning system (HTAWS).
135.607 VFR minimum altitudes and visibility requirements.
135.609 IFR operations at locations without weather reporting.
135.611 VFR/visual transitions from instrument approaches.
135.613 VFR flight planning.
135.615 Pre-flight risk analysis.
135.617 Operations control centers.
135.619 Medical personnel briefing requirements.

Subpart L--Helicopter Air Ambulance Equipment, Operation, and 
Training Requirements


Sec.  135.601  Applicability and definitions.

    (a) Applicability. This subpart prescribes the requirements 
applicable to each certificate holder conducting helicopter air 
ambulance operations.
    (b) Definitions. For purposes of this subpart, the following 
definitions apply.
    (1) Helicopter air ambulance means a helicopter used in helicopter 
air ambulance operations by a part 135 certificate holder authorized by 
the FAA to conduct helicopter air ambulance operations.
    (2) Helicopter air ambulance operation means a flight, or sequence 
of flights, conducted for the purpose of transporting a person in need 
of medical care, or a donor organ, by helicopter air ambulance. This 
includes, but is not limited to--
    (i) Flights conducted to position the helicopter at the site at 
which a patient or donor organ will be picked up;
    (ii) Flights conducted to reposition the helicopter after 
completing the patient, or donor organ transport; and

[[Page 62671]]

    (iii) Flights initiated for the transport of a patient or donor 
organ that are terminated due to weather or other reasons.
    (3) Medical personnel means persons with medical training, 
including but not limited to a flight physician, a flight nurse, or a 
flight paramedic, who are carried aboard a helicopter during helicopter 
air ambulance operations in order to provide medical care.
    (4) Mountainous means designated mountainous areas as defined in 
part 95 of this chapter.
    (5) Non-mountainous means areas other than mountainous areas as 
defined in part 95 of this chapter.


Sec.  135.603  Pilot-in-command qualifications.

    After [DATE 3 YEARS AFTER EFFECTIVE DATE OF THE FINAL RULE], no 
certificate holder may use, nor may any person serve as, a pilot in 
command of a helicopter air ambulance operation unless that person 
meets the requirements of Sec.  135.243 and holds a helicopter 
instrument rating or an airline transport pilot certificate with a 
category and class rating for that aircraft, that is not limited to 
VFR.


Sec.  135.605  Helicopter terrain awareness and warning system (HTAWS).

    (a) No person may operate a helicopter in helicopter air ambulance 
operations after [DATE 3 YEARS AFTER EFFECTIVE DATE OF THE FINAL RULE], 
unless that helicopter is equipped with a helicopter terrain awareness 
and warning system (HTAWS) that meets the requirements in Technical 
Standard Order (TSO)-C194. Technical Standard Order (TSO)-C194 
Helicopter Terrain Awareness and Warning System, December 17, 2008, is 
incorporated by reference into this section with the approval of the 
Director of the Office of the Federal Register under 5 U.S.C. 552(a) 
and 1 CFR part 51. Copies may be obtained from the U.S. Department of 
Transportation, Subsequent Distribution Office, DOT Warehouse M30, 
Ardmore East Business Center, 3341 Q 75th Avenue, Landover, MD 20785; 
telephone (301) 322-5377. Copies are also available on the FAA's Web 
site. Use the following link: http://www.airweb.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library/rgTSO.nsf/0/532109AB059EC23D8625762000573A1E?OpenDocument. All approved material is 
available for inspection at the National Archives and Records 
Administration (NARA). For information on the availability of this 
material at NARA, call 202-741-6030 or go to http://www.archives.gov/federal_register/code_of_federal_regulations/ibr_locations.html.
    (b) Operators with HTAWS required by this section that meets a 
later version of TSO-C194, or HTAWS with an approved deviation under 
Sec.  21.609 of this chapter, also are in compliance with this section.
    (c) The certificate holder's Rotorcraft Flight Manual must contain 
appropriate procedures for--
    (1) The use of the HTAWS; and
    (2) Proper flight crew response to HTAWS audio and visual warnings.


Sec.  135.607  VFR minimum altitudes and visibility requirements.

    Unless specified in the certificate holder's operations 
specifications, when conducting helicopter air ambulance operations in 
Class G airspace with medical personnel on board, the following weather 
minima and visibility requirements apply--
    (a) In non-mountainous local flying areas--
    (1) During the day, 800-foot ceiling and 2 statute miles 
visibility.
    (2) At night--
    (i) When equipped with an FAA-approved night-vision imaging system 
(NVIS) or an FAA-approved HTAWS, 800-foot ceiling and 3 statute miles 
visibility; or
    (ii) When not equipped with an FAA-approved NVIS or an FAA-approved 
HTAWS, 1,000-foot ceiling and 3 statute miles visibility.
    (b) In non-mountainous cross-country flying areas--
    (1) During the day, 800-foot ceiling and 3 statute miles 
visibility.
    (2) At night--
    (i) When equipped with an FAA-approved NVIS or an FAA-approved 
HTAWS, 1,000-foot ceiling and 3 statute miles visibility; or
    (ii) When not equipped with an FAA-approved NVIS or an FAA-approved 
HTAWS, 1,000-foot ceiling and 5 statute miles visibility.
    (c) In mountainous local flying areas--
    (1) During the day, 800-foot ceiling and 3 statute miles 
visibility.
    (2) At night--
    (i) When equipped with an FAA-approved NVIS or an FAA-approved 
HTAWS, 1,000-foot ceiling and 3 statute miles visibility; or
    (ii) When not equipped with an FAA-approved NVIS or an FAA-approved 
HTAWS, 1,500-foot ceiling and 3 statute miles visibility.
    (d) In mountainous cross-country flying areas--
    (1) During the day, 1,000-foot ceiling and 3 statute miles 
visibility.
    (2) At night--
    (i) When equipped with an FAA-approved NVIS or an FAA-approved 
HTAWS, 1,000-foot ceiling and 5 statute miles visibility; or
    (ii) When not equipped with an FAA-approved NVIS or an FAA-approved 
HTAWS, 1,500-foot ceiling and 5 statute miles visibility.
    (e) Each certificate holder must designate a local flying area for 
each base of operations at which helicopter air ambulance services are 
conducted, in a manner acceptable to the FAA, that must--
    (1) Not exceed 50 nautical miles in any direction from the 
helicopter's base of operations;
    (2) Take into account man-made and natural geographic terrain 
features that are easily identifiable by the pilot in command and from 
which the pilot in command may visually determine a position at all 
times; and
    (3) Take into account the operating environment and capabilities of 
the certificate holder's aircraft.


Sec.  135.609  IFR operations at locations without weather reporting.

    (a) If a certificate holder is authorized to conduct helicopter IFR 
operations, the FAA may issue operations specifications to allow that 
certificate holder to conduct IFR operations at airports or heliports 
with an instrument approach procedure and at which a weather report is 
not available from the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS), a source 
approved by the NWS, or a source approved by the FAA, subject to the 
following limitations:
    (1) In Class G airspace, IFR departures are authorized only after 
the pilot in command of the affected flight determines that the weather 
conditions at the departure point are at or above VFR minima in 
accordance with Sec.  135.607;
    (2) The certificate holder must obtain a weather report from a 
weather reporting facility operated by the NWS, a source approved by 
the NWS, or a source approved by the FAA, that is located within 15 
nautical miles of the destination landing area. In addition, the 
certificate holder must obtain the area forecast from the NWS, a source 
approved by the NWS, or a source approved by the FAA, for information 
regarding the weather observed in the vicinity of the destination 
landing area;
    (3) Flight planning for IFR flights conducted under this paragraph 
must include selection of an alternate airport that meets the 
requirements of Sec. Sec.  135.221 and 135.223; and
    (4) All approaches must be at Category A approach speeds or those 
required for the type of approach being used.

[[Page 62672]]

    (b) Each helicopter air ambulance operated under this section must 
be--
    (1) Fully equipped and certified to conduct IFR operations under 
this part;
    (2) Equipped with functioning severe weather-detection equipment, 
such as airborne weather radar or lightning detection;
    (3) Equipped with an operable autopilot, if used in lieu of the 
second in command required by Sec.  135.101; and
    (4) Equipped with navigation equipment appropriate to the approach 
to be flown.
    (c) Each pilot in command who conducts operations under this 
section must--
    (1) Have a current Sec.  135.297 pilot-in-command instrument 
proficiency check;
    (2) Be certificated to conduct the permitted IFR operations;
    (3) Be trained in accordance with the certificate holder's approved 
training program and annually complete an approved course that 
includes, but is not limited to--
    (i) A review of IFR regulations found in this part and parts 1, 61, 
and 91 of this chapter, and IFR operations found in the Aeronautical 
Information Manual;
    (ii) Interpreting weather, weather reports, and weather forecasts;
    (iii) Reviewing instrument charts;
    (iv) Crew resource management;
    (v) Methods for determining weather observations by the pilot in 
command, including present visibility and ceilings; and
    (vi) Approaches authorized under this section;
    (4) Be qualified in accordance with the requirements of this part;
    (5) Be current in all requirements to perform operations under IFR 
in the make or model of helicopter being used; and
    (6) Be tested and checked on IFR operations at uncontrolled 
airports.
    (d) Pilots conducting operations pursuant to this section may use 
the weather information obtained in paragraph (a) to satisfy the 
weather report and forecast requirements of Sec.  135.213 and Sec.  
135.225(a).
    (e) After completing a landing at the destination airport or 
heliport at which a weather report is not available, the pilot in 
command is authorized to determine if the weather meets the takeoff 
requirements of part 97 of this chapter or the certificate holder's 
operations specification, as applicable.


Sec.  135.611  VFR/visual transitions from instrument approaches.

    (a) Transitions from IFR flight to VFR flight on approach to a 
heliport or landing area--
    (1) If an approved visual segment exists as part of an approved 
instrument approach procedure, the appropriate associated minima on the 
approach chart apply.
    (2) Unless authorized by the FAA, the following VFR weather minima 
apply when conducting an authorized IFR Point in Space (PinS) Copter 
Special Instrument Approach Procedure--
    (i) If the proceed-VFR segment to the heliport of intended landing 
is within 1 nautical mile of the missed approach point, and is within 
the obstacle evaluation area, visibility must be at least 1 statute 
mile.
    (ii) If the proceed-VFR segment is 3 nautical miles or less from 
the heliport or landing area and does not meet the requirements of 
paragraph (a)(1)(i) of this section, then--
    (A) Day Operations: 600-foot ceiling/2 statute miles visibility.
    (B) Night Operations: 600-foot ceiling/3 statute miles visibility.
    (3) Unless authorized by the FAA, the following VFR weather minima 
apply when conducting an authorized IFR Standard or Special Instrument 
Approach Procedure and transitions to VFR at the missed approach point 
that is 3 nautical miles or less from the heliport or landing area--
    (i) Day Operations: 600-foot ceiling/2 statute miles visibility.
    (ii) Night Operations: 600-foot ceiling/3 statute miles visibility.
    (4) If the distance from the missed approach point to the heliport 
or landing area exceeds 3 nautical miles, the minimum altitudes and 
visibility requirements of Sec.  135.607 apply.
    (b) Transitions from VFR to IFR upon departure from a heliport or 
landing area--
    (1) A pilot may use the VFR weather minima of paragraph (a)(1) or 
(a)(2) of this section to depart a heliport or landing area if--
    (i) The operator follows an FAA-approved obstacle departure 
procedure;
    (ii) The operator has filed an IFR flight plan and obtains an IFR 
clearance upon reaching a predetermined location; and
    (iii) The distance from the departure location to the point at 
which IFR clearance will be obtained does not exceed 3 nautical miles.
    (2) If the operator cannot meet the departure requirements of 
paragraph (b)(1) of this section then the minimum altitudes and 
visibility requirements of Sec.  135.607 apply.


Sec.  135.613  VFR flight planning.

    (a) Pre-flight: Prior to conducting VFR operations, the pilot in 
command must--
    (1) Determine the minimum safe cruise altitude by evaluating the 
terrain and obstacles along the planned route of flight;
    (2) Identify and document the highest obstacle along the planned 
route of flight; and
    (3) Using the minimum safe cruise altitudes, determine the minimum 
required ceiling and visibility to conduct the planned flight by 
applying the weather minima appropriate to the conditions of the 
planned flight, including the requirements of this subpart and the 
visibility and cloud clearance requirements of Sec.  91.155(a) of this 
chapter, as applicable to the class of airspace for the planned flight.
    (b) During flight: While conducting VFR operations, the pilot in 
command must ensure that all terrain and obstacles along the route of 
flight, except for takeoff and landing, can be cleared vertically by no 
less than the following:
    (1) 300 feet for day operations.
    (2) 500 feet for night operations.
    (c) Re-routing the planned flight path: A pilot in command may 
deviate from the planned flight path as required by conditions or 
operational considerations. During such deviations, the pilot in 
command is not relieved from the weather or terrain/obstruction 
clearance requirements of this part and part 91 of this chapter. Re-
routing, change in destination, or other changes to the planned flight 
that occur while the aircraft is on the ground at an intermediate stop 
require evaluation of the new route in accordance with paragraph (a) of 
this section.
    (d) Operations manual: Each certificate holder must document its 
VFR flight planning procedures in its operations manual.


Sec.  135.615  Pre-flight risk analysis.

    (a) Each certificate holder conducting helicopter air ambulance 
operations must establish, and document in its operations manual, an 
FAA-approved procedure for conducting pre-flight risk analyses that 
include at least the following items--
    (1) Flight considerations, to include obstacles and terrain along 
the planned route of flight, landing zone conditions, and fuel 
requirements;
    (2) Human factors, such as crew fatigue, life events, and other 
stressors;
    (3) Weather, including departure, en route, destination, and 
forecasted;
    (4) Whether another helicopter air ambulance operator has refused 
or rejected a flight request; and
    (5) Strategies and procedures for mitigating identified risks, 
including procedures for obtaining and documenting approval of the 
certificate holder's management personnel to

[[Page 62673]]

release a flight when a risk exceeds a level predetermined by the 
certificate holder.
    (b) Each certificate holder must develop a pre-flight risk analysis 
worksheet to include, at a minimum, the items in paragraph (a) of this 
section.
    (c) Prior to the first leg of each helicopter air ambulance 
operation, the pilot in command must conduct and document on the risk 
analysis worksheet a pre-flight risk analysis in accordance with the 
certificate holder's FAA-approved procedures. The pilot in command must 
sign the risk analysis worksheet and specify the date and time it was 
completed.
    (d) The certificate holder must retain the original or a copy of 
each completed pre-flight risk analysis worksheet at a location 
specified in its operations manual for at least 90 days from the date 
of the operation.


Sec.  135.617  Operations control centers.

    (a) After [DATE 2 YEARS AFTER THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THE FINAL RULE] 
certificate holders authorized to conduct helicopter air ambulance 
operations, with 10 or more helicopter air ambulances assigned to the 
certificate holder's operations specifications, must have an operations 
control center, staffed by operations control specialists who, at a 
minimum--
    (1) Provide two-way communications with pilots;
    (2) Provide pilots with weather briefings, to include current and 
forecasted weather along the planned route of flight;
    (3) Monitor the progress of the flight; and
    (4) Participate in the pre-flight risk analysis required under 
Sec.  135.615 to include the following:
    (i) Ensure pilot has completed all required items on the FAA-
approved pre-flight risk analysis form;
    (ii) Confirm and verify all entries on pre-flight risk analysis 
form;
    (iii) Assist the pilot in mitigating any identified risk prior to 
takeoff; and
    (iv) Acknowledge in writing, specifying the date and time, that the 
risk analysis worksheet has been accurately completed and that, 
according to their professional judgment, the flight can be conducted 
safely.
    (b) Each certificate holder conducting helicopter air ambulance 
operations must provide enough operations control specialists at each 
operations control center to ensure proper operational control of each 
flight.
    (c) Each certificate holder must describe in its operations manual 
the duties and responsibilities of operations control specialists, 
including pre-flight risk mitigation strategies and control measures, 
shift change checklist, and its training and testing procedures to hold 
the position, including procedures for retesting.
    (d) No certificate holder may use, nor may any person serve as, an 
operations control specialist unless that person has satisfactorily 
completed the training required by paragraph (e) of this section.
    (e) No person may perform the duties of an operations control 
specialist before completing the certificate holder's FAA-approved 
operations control specialist training program and passing an FAA-
approved written knowledge and a practical test given by the 
certificate holder as required by this paragraph. No person may 
continue performing the duties of an operations control specialist 
unless that person has completed the certificate holder's FAA-approved 
recurrent training program and passed an FAA-approved written knowledge 
test and a practical test given by the certificate holder as required 
by this paragraph.
    (1) Initial training must include a minimum of 80 hours of training 
on the topics listed in paragraph (g) of this section. A certificate 
holder may reduce the number of hours of initial training to a minimum 
of 40 hours for persons who have obtained, at the time of beginning 
initial training, a total of at least 2 years of experience during the 
last 5 years in any one or in any combination of the following areas--
    (i) In military aircraft operations as a pilot, flight navigator, 
or meteorologist;
    (ii) In air carrier operations as a pilot, flight engineer, 
certified aircraft dispatcher, or meteorologist; or
    (iii) In aircraft operations as an air traffic controller or a 
flight service specialist.
    (2) Each operations control specialist must receive a minimum of 40 
hours of recurrent training on the topics listed in paragraph (g) of 
this section and pass an FAA approved written knowledge test and 
practical test given by the certificate holder on those topics within 
the calendar month of the anniversary of passing the initial practical 
test. Recurrent training and examinations may be completed in the 
calendar month before, the calendar month of, or the calendar month 
after they are due.
    (f) The certificate holder must maintain a training record for each 
operations control specialist employed by the certificate holder for 
the duration of that individual's employment and for 90 days 
thereafter. Each training record must include a chronological log of 
all instructors, subjects covered, and course examinations and results.
    (g) Each certificate holder must have an FAA-approved operations 
control specialist training program that covers at least the following 
topics--
    (1) Aviation weather, to include:
    (i) General meteorology;
    (ii) Prevailing weather;
    (iii) Adverse and deteriorating weather;
    (iv) Windshear;
    (v) Icing conditions;
    (vi) Use of aviation weather products;
    (vii) Available sources of information; and
    (viii) Weather minima;
    (2) Navigation, to include:
    (i) Navigation aids;
    (ii) Instrument approach procedures;
    (iii) Navigational publications; and
    (iv) Navigation techniques;
    (3) Flight monitoring, to include:
    (i) Available flight-monitoring procedures; and
    (ii) Alternate flight-monitoring procedures;
    (4) Air traffic control, to include:
    (i) Airspace;
    (ii) Air traffic control procedures;
    (iii) Aeronautical charts; and
    (iv) Aeronautical data sources;
    (5) Aviation communication, to include:
    (i) Available aircraft communications systems;
    (ii) Normal communication procedures;
    (iii) Abnormal communication procedures; and
    (iv) Emergency communication procedures;
    (6) Aircraft systems, to include:
    (i) Communications systems;
    (ii) Navigation systems;
    (iii) Surveillance systems;
    (iv) Fueling systems;
    (v) Specialized systems;
    (vi) General maintenance requirements; and
    (vii) Minimum equipment lists;
    (7) Aircraft limitations and performance, to include:
    (i) Aircraft operational limitations;
    (ii) Aircraft performance;
    (iii) Weight and balance procedures and limitations; and
    (iv) Landing zone and landing facility requirements;
    (8) Aviation policy and regulations, to include:
    (i) 14 CFR parts 1, 27, 29, 61, 71, 91, and 135;
    (ii) 49 CFR part 830;
    (iii) Company operations specifications;
    (iv) Company general operations policies;
    (v) Enhanced operational control policies;
    (vi) Aeronautical decisionmaking and risk management;

[[Page 62674]]

    (vii) Lost procedures; and
    (viii) Emergency and search and rescue procedures, including 
plotting coordinates in degrees, minutes, seconds format, and degrees, 
decimal minutes format;
    (9) Crew resource management, to include:
    (i) Concepts and practical application;
    (ii) Risk management and risk mitigation; and
    (iii) Pre-flight risk analysis procedures required under Sec.  
135.615;
    (10) Local flying area orientation, to include:
    (i) Terrain features;
    (ii) Obstructions;
    (iii) Weather phenomena for local area;
    (iv) Airspace and air traffic control facilities;
    (v) Heliports, airports, landing zones, and fuel facilities;
    (vi) Instrument approaches;
    (vii) Predominant air traffic flow;
    (viii) Landmarks and cultural features, including areas prone to 
white out or brown out conditions; and
    (ix) Local aviation and safety resources and contact information; 
and
    (11) Any other requirements as determined by the FAA to ensure safe 
operations.
    (h) Operations control specialist duty time limitations.
    (1) Each certificate holder must establish the daily duty period 
for an operations control specialist so that it begins at a time that 
allows that person to become thoroughly familiar with operational 
considerations, including existing and anticipated weather conditions 
in the area of operations, helicopter operations in progress, and 
helicopter maintenance status, before performing duties associated with 
any helicopter air ambulance operation. The operations control 
specialist must remain on duty until each helicopter air ambulance 
monitored by that person has completed its flight, has gone beyond that 
person's jurisdiction, or the operations control specialist is relieved 
by another qualified operations control specialist.
    (2) Except in cases where circumstances or emergency conditions 
beyond the control of the certificate holder require otherwise--
    (i) No certificate holder may schedule an operations control 
specialist for more than 10 consecutive hours of duty;
    (ii) If an operations control specialist is scheduled for more than 
10 hours of duty in 24 consecutive hours, the certificate holder must 
provide that person a rest period of at least 8 hours at or before the 
end of 10 hours of duty;
    (iii) If an operations control specialist is on duty for more than 
10 consecutive hours, the certificate holder must provide that person a 
rest period of at least 8 hours before that person's next duty period;
    (iii) Each operations control specialist must be relieved of all 
duty with the certificate holder for at least 24 consecutive hours 
during any 7 consecutive days.
    (i) Drug and Alcohol Testing. Operations control specialists must 
be tested for drugs and alcohol according to the certificate holder's 
Drug and Alcohol Testing Program administered under part 120 of this 
chapter.


Sec.  135.619  Medical personnel briefing requirements.

    (a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, prior to 
each helicopter air ambulance operation, each pilot in command, or 
other flight crewmember designated by the certificate holder, must 
ensure that all medical personnel have been--
    (1) Briefed on the topics included in Sec.  135.117(a) and (b); and
    (2) Briefed on the following topics--
    (i) Physiological aspects of flight;
    (ii) Patient loading and unloading;
    (iii) Safety in and around the aircraft;
    (iv) In-flight emergency procedures;
    (v) Emergency landing procedures;
    (vi) Emergency evacuation procedures;
    (vii) Efficient and safe communications with the pilot; and
    (viii) Operational differences between day and night operations, if 
appropriate.
    (b) The briefing required in paragraph (a)(2) of this section may 
be omitted if all medical personnel on board have satisfactorily 
completed the certificate holder's FAA-approved medical personnel 
training program within the preceding 24 calendar months. Each training 
program must include a minimum of 4 hours of ground training, and 4 
hours of training in and around an air ambulance helicopter, on the 
topics set forth in paragraph (a)(2) of this section.
    (c) Each certificate holder must maintain a record for each person 
trained under this section that--
    (1) Contains the individual's name, the most recent training 
completion date, and a description, copy, or reference to training 
materials used to meet the training requirement; and
    (2) Is maintained for 24 calendar months following the individual's 
completion of training, and for 60 days thereafter.

    Issued in Washington, DC, on September 28, 2010.
Raymond Towles,
Acting Director, Flight Standards Service.
[FR Doc. 2010-24862 Filed 10-7-10; 11:15 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-13-P