[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 22 (Monday, February 3, 2014)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 6082-6088]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-02123]


-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Aviation Administration

14 CFR Parts 121, 125, and 135

[Docket No.: FAA-2012-1059; Amdts. No.: 121-368, 125-63, 135-128]
RIN 2120-AK11


Minimum Altitudes for Use of Autopilots

AGENCY: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT.

ACTION: Final rule.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: This rulemaking amends and harmonizes minimum altitudes for 
use of autopilots for transport category airplanes; it also enables the 
operational use of advanced autopilot and navigation systems by 
incorporating the capabilities of current and future autopilots, flight 
guidance systems, and Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) 
guidance systems while protecting the continued use of legacy systems 
at current autopilot minimum use altitudes. Additionally, this final 
rule implements a performance-based approach, using the certified 
capabilities of autopilot systems as established by the Airplane Flight 
Manual (AFM) or as approved by the Administrator.

DATES: Effective April 4, 2014.

ADDRESSES: For information on where to obtain copies of rulemaking 
documents and other information related to this final rule, see ``How 
To Obtain Additional Information'' section of this document.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For technical questions concerning 
this action, contact Kel O. Christianson, FAA, Aviation Safety 
Inspector, Performance Based Flight Systems Branch (AFS-470), Flight 
Standards Service, Federal Aviation Administration, 800 Independence 
Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20591; telephone 202-385-4702; email 
Kel.christianson@faa.gov.
    For legal questions concerning this action, contact Robert H. 
Frenzel, Manager, Operations Law Branch, Office of the Chief Counsel, 
Regulations Division (AGC-220), Federal Aviation Administration, 800 
Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20591; telephone 202-267-3073; 
email Robert.Frenzel@faa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

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. 106(f), which establishes 
the authority of the Administrator to promulgate regulations and rules 
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. This amendment to the regulation is within the scope 
of that authority because it prescribes an accepted method for ensuring 
the safe operation of aircraft while using autopilot systems.

I. Overview of Final Rule

    The FAA amends and harmonizes minimum altitudes for use of 
autopilots for transport category airplanes in order to streamline and 
simplify these operational rules. This final rule enables the 
operational use of advanced autopilot and navigation systems by 
incorporating the capabilities of existing and future autopilots, 
flight guidance systems, and GNSS guidance systems while protecting the 
continued use of legacy systems. This allows the FAA to enable the 
benefits of Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) 
technologies and procedures (Optimized Profile Descents, Performance 
Based Navigation (PBN)) to enhance aviation safety in the National 
Airspace System (NAS). This final rule also gives the FAA Administrator 
the authorization to require an altitude higher than the AFM if the 
Administrator believes it to be in the interest of public safety.
    Currently, operators have a choice whether or not to update their 
aircraft with new autopilots as they are developed and certified by 
equipment manufacturers. This final rule does not affect this decision-
making process and protects operators to continue operating as they do 
today. As a result, this action does not impose any additional costs on 
certificate holders that operate under parts 121, 125, or 135. Also, by 
setting new minimum altitudes for each phase of flight that approved 
equipment may operate to, this final rule gives manufacturers more 
certainty that new products can be used as they are developed.
    In response to Executive Order 13563 issued by President Obama on 
January 18, 2011, this rule was identified for inclusion in the 
Department of Transportation Retrospective Regulatory Review (May 
2011), noting that the current minimum altitudes for use of autopilots 
were unduly restrictive and would limit the ability to use new 
technologies. On May 10, 2012,

[[Page 6083]]

President Obama signed Executive Order 13610, establishing the 
Retrospective Regulatory Review as an on-going obligation. The final 
rule is consistent with the requirement in Executive Order 13610 to 
modify or streamline regulations ``in light of changed circumstances, 
including the rise of new technologies.''

II. Background

A. Statement of the Problem

    The FAA and Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) (the predecessor 
to the FAA) technical standards for autopilot systems date back to 
1947. These standards have been revised eight times since 1959, but the 
operating rules for autopilot minimum use altitudes in 14 Code of 
Federal Regulations (14 CFR) Sec. Sec.  121.579, 125.329, and 135.93 
have not been amended in any significant way since the recodification 
of the Civil Aviation Regulations (CAR) and Civil Aviation Manuals 
(CAM) on December 31, 1964.
    By contrast, autopilot certification standards contained in 14 CFR 
25.1329 were updated as recently as April 11, 2006. Consequently, 
operational regulations in parts 121, 125, and 135 do not adequately 
reflect the capabilities of modern technologies in use today and thus 
make it difficult to keep pace with the FAA's implementation of 
NextGen.

B. History

    The FAA published an NPRM in the Federal Register on December 9, 
1994 (59 FR 63868) based on a recommendation from the Autopilot 
Engagement Working Group of the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee 
(ARAC) to change the existing rules concerning engagement of autopilots 
during takeoff. The ARAC determined that the increased use of an 
autopilot during takeoff would enhance aviation safety by giving pilots 
greater situational awareness of what was going on inside and outside 
of the aircraft. This benefit would be realized by reducing the task 
loading required to manually fly the aircraft during the critical 
takeoff phase of flight. The FAA received seven comments in response to 
the NPRM, and all commenters supported an amendment to the rule.
    In 1997, the FAA amended Sec. Sec.  121.579, 125.329, and 135.93 to 
permit certificate holders the use of an approved autopilot system for 
takeoff, based on the 1994 NPRM and an expectation that autopilot 
technology would continue to advance (62 FR 27922; May 21, 1997). This 
authorization was given to certificate holders through an Operations 
Specification (OpSpec), which was implemented as a stopgap measure. The 
rule itself was not changed to provide manufacturers and operators the 
guidance for producing and operating new aircraft capable of attaining 
lower autopilot minimum use altitudes. The amendment also failed to 
address autopilot minimum use altitudes on instrument approaches or 
harmonize 14 CFR parts 121, 125 and 135.

C. ARAC Efforts To Amend Autopilots Rules

    Since 1997, multiple groups have been formed to review current 
regulations and autopilot technologies. The FAA Transport Airplane 
Directorate initiated an effort under the ARAC Flight Guidance 
Harmonization Working Group to evaluate the status of current autopilot 
technologies, rules and guidance along with the harmonization of U.S. 
policy and guidance with the Joint Aviation Authorities. Later, the 
Performance-based operations Aviation Rulemaking Committee, which 
established the Autopilot Minimum Use Height (MUH) action team, 
evaluated autopilot minimum use altitudes and made recommendations to 
the Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety. The team was 
specifically tasked with developing recommendations to address progress 
in the area of PBN and the subsets of area navigation (RNAV) and 
required navigation performance (RNP) operations. The team's 
conclusions aligned with the previous groups' acknowledgement that 
Sec. Sec.  121.579, 125.329 and 135.93 were outdated and recommended 
new rulemaking to take advantage of advancements in modern aircraft 
technologies and the certified capabilities of autopilot systems to 
create a performance-based structure to aid in the implementation of 
NextGen flight operations.

D. Summary of the NPRM

    The FAA published an NPRM in the Federal Register on December 4, 
2012 (77 FR 71735), proposing to enable the operational use of advanced 
autopilot and navigation systems by incorporating the capabilities of 
current and future autopilots, flight guidance systems, and GNSS 
guidance systems while protecting the continued use of legacy systems. 
The NPRM proposed to accomplish this through a performance-based 
approach, using the certified capabilities of autopilot systems as 
established by the Airplane Flight Manual (AFM) or as approved by the 
Administrator. The comment period closed on February 4, 2013.

E. General Overview of Comments

    The FAA received 3 public comments. The National Business Aviation 
Association (NBAA) provided one comment supporting the rule. The second 
commenter focused on the definitions and terms used in the regulatory 
text and the third commenter requested a clarification of the 
regulatory text.

III. Discussion of Public Comments and Final Rule

A. Revise Minimum Altitudes for Use of Autopilot (Sec.  121.579, 
125.329 and 135.93)

    A commenter suggested that Threshhold Elevation (THRE) be added to 
the definition of TDZE to read, ``touchdown zone/threshold elevation'' 
(TDZE). The suggestion was made based on the fact that, at the time of 
the NPRM, TDZEs were being replaced with THREs on instrument approach 
plates (IAPs) in the NAS. This resulted in instrument approach plates 
published with either a TDZE or THRE. The comment was suggested so that 
the rule would reference both terms, thus allowing both terms to be 
used by the pilots as a reference for adding the applicable altitudes 
or heights published in the AFM.
    The policy to change TDZE to THRE has been rescinded. TDZE will now 
be the standard and will replace THRE on IAPs that are currently 
published with THRE. Based on this, the FAA has decided that TDZE will 
remain the only term used in this final rule. As a result, this final 
rule will allow operators to add the applicable altitudes or heights 
published in the AFM to the airport elevation and TDZE published on the 
instrument approach plate. This will provide a standard reference for 
all operators and manufacturers using and producing Flight Management 
Systems (FMS).
    The third commenter suggested clarifying the regulatory text as it 
related to the base minimum use altitude for an approach and how 
Sec. Sec.  91.175 and 91.155 weather conditions are used when applying 
autopilot minimums. The FAA agrees with the comment and has clarified 
this particular section. Specifically, the FAA has realigned the 
regulatory text and placed into separate paragraphs the specific 
conditions that must be met in order to apply the autopilot minimums.
    This final rule is a complete rewrite of Sec. Sec.  121.579, 
125.329 and 135.93. The language in each section of the regulations is 
identical except for an additional paragraph in Sec.  135.93 exempting 
rotorcraft. This final rule

[[Page 6084]]

harmonizes these three parts of 14 CFR because this final rule is based 
on the performance capabilities of the equipment being utilized, not 
the operating certificate held. Nothing in this final rule will prevent 
or adversely affect the continued safe operation of aircraft using 
legacy navigation systems.
    Furthermore, this action defines altitude references for the 
different phases of flight, whereas the original rule defined all 
altitudes with reference to terrain. Altitudes for takeoff/initial 
climb and go-around/missed approach are defined as above the airport 
elevation. Altitudes for enroute operations are defined as above 
terrain elevation. Altitudes used for approach are defined as being 
above Touchdown Zone Elevation (TDZE). If the altitude is in reference 
to a Decision Altitude/Height (DA(H)) or Minimum Descent Altitude 
(MDA), the altitude will be defined in relation to the DA(H) or MDA 
itself (e.g. 50 ft. below DA(H)). Upon further review of the proposed 
regulatory text, the FAA is removing subparagraph (a)(4) from each of 
these sections. The language ``Altitudes defined as being above airport 
elevation, TDZE or terrain are above ground level (AGL)'' as proposed 
in the NPRM is redundant. The provisions defining the altitude 
references in subparagraphs (a)(1), (a)(2) and (a)(3) are sufficient to 
define the elevations that will be used to calculate the autopilot 
minimum use height/altitude for each phase of flight.
    This final rule is formatted to model the actual phases of flight: 
takeoff through landing or go-around/missed approach. Each paragraph in 
this final rule has a base minimum autopilot use altitude for the 
intended phase of flight that all aircraft may utilize. In order to 
protect the use of all legacy systems, the base altitudes will remain 
identical to the altitudes in the current rule. Lower minimum use 
altitudes are based on certification of the autopilot system and 
limitations found in the AFM. The enroute minimum use altitude will not 
change from the current rule. Additionally, the minimum use altitude in 
each paragraph can be raised by the Administrator if warranted by an 
operational or safety need.
    No other comments were received on these three sections and they 
are adopted as proposed.

B. Takeoff and Initial Climb (Sec. Sec.  121.579 (b), 125.329(b) and 
135.93(b))

    The current rule defines the base minimum altitude at which all 
aircraft may engage the autopilot after takeoff as 500 ft. or double 
the autopilot altitude loss (as specified in the AFM) above the 
terrain, whichever is higher. The current rule also gives the 
Administrator the authority to use OpSpecs to authorize a lower minimum 
engagement altitude on takeoff, which must be specified in the AFM.
    This final rule retains the same minimum altitudes for all aircraft 
to protect legacy systems and introduces the ability to use a lower 
engagement altitude on takeoff/initial climb based upon the certified 
limits of the autopilot as specified in the AFM. This final rule also 
gives the Administrator the authority to specify an altitude above, but 
not below, that specified in the AFM.
    As a result, this final rule establishes the AFM as a performance-
based standard by which a certificate holder may be authorized for 
operations through its OpSpecs. Once an autopilot's capabilities and 
limitations are certified and reflected in the AFM, a certificate 
holder may request a change to its OpSpecs to authorize use of the new 
autopilot minimum use altitude specified in the AFM. No comments were 
received on these three sections and they are adopted as proposed.

C. Enroute (Sec. Sec.  121.579(c), 125.329(c) and 135.93(c))

    The enroute paragraph of the current rule specifies a minimum use 
altitude of 500 ft. above terrain, or an altitude that is no lower than 
twice the autopilot altitude loss specified in the AFM, whichever is 
higher, for all operations. This final rule maintains the same base 
minimum use altitude as the current rule, while granting the 
Administrator the authority to specify a higher altitude if required by 
an operational or safety related need.
    No comments were received on these three sections and they are 
adopted as proposed.

D. Approach (Sec. Sec.  121.579(d), 125.329(d), 135.93(d))

    The base minimum use altitude for an approach in this final rule 
will remain the same as the current rule. Aircraft with a specified 
height loss may use an autopilot no lower than 50 ft. below the DA (H) 
or MDA or twice the altitude loss specified in the AFM, whichever is 
greater. The current rule allows for exceptions to this altitude with 
the use of a coupled autopilot, instrument landing system (ILS), and 
specified reported weather conditions.
    This final rule is written to allow current operators the ability 
to operate as they do now (thereby protecting legacy systems), while 
also allowing operators with updated systems to attain lower minimum 
use heights. If an operator has an approved autopilot that can fly a 
coupled approach, ILS or other than the ILS, it may use the AFM 
specified ``altitude loss'' or Administrator directed height as the 
basis for disconnecting the autopilot on the approach. In instrument 
flight rules (IFR) conditions or operations in less than visual flight 
rules (VFR), the aircraft is below the MDA or DA and pilot has Sec.  
91.175 references, the disengage height remains ``altitude loss plus 50 
ft.'' In VFR conditions, the operator may use the ``altitude loss'' as 
the disengage height or 50 ft., whichever is higher. This final rule 
allows the aircraft to be used down to a lower minimum use height based 
on the AFM limitation and the ability of the pilot to immediately 
recognize a possible autopilot deviation by using visual references 
outside the aircraft.
    No other comments were received on these three sections and they 
are adopted as proposed. Sections 121.579(d), 125.329(d), and 135.93(d) 
appear in the final rule with the changes as described for paragraphs 
(d)(1).

E. Go Around/Missed Approach (Sec. Sec.  121.579(e), 125.329(e) and 
135.93(e))

    The final rule provides guidance for executing a missed approach/
go-around that the current rule lacks. This guidance is first presented 
in the approach paragraph, wherein an aircraft does not need to comply 
with the autopilot minimum use altitude of that paragraph provided it 
is executing a coupled missed approach/go-around. A new subparagraph 
provides guidance on when the autopilot can be engaged on the missed 
approach/go-around when accomplished.
    No comments were received on these three sections and they are 
adopted as proposed.

F. Landing (Sec. Sec.  121.579(f), 125.329(f) and 135.93(f))

    The last paragraph in this final rule provides guidance for 
landing. Current language authorizes the Administrator, through 
OpSpecs, to allow an aircraft to touchdown with the autopilot engaged 
using an approved autoland flight guidance system. This authorization 
relies upon an ILS to meet this requirement. This final rule states 
that minimum use altitudes do not apply to autopilot operations when an 
approved and authorized landing system mode is being used for landing. 
This final rule will not limit approved landing systems to ground based 
systems. This action will allow new performance based landing systems 
to be approved and implemented for autoland operations as they become 
available.

[[Page 6085]]

    No comments were received on these three sections and they are 
adopted as proposed.

G. Rotorcraft Operations (Sec.  135.93(g))

    The current rule expressly excludes rotorcraft operations from the 
minimum altitudes for use of autopilots. This final rule continues to 
exclude rotorcraft operations.
    No comments were received on Sec.  135.93(g), and it appears as 
proposed.

IV. Regulatory Notices and Analyses

A. 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 final rule.
    Department of Transportation Order DOT 2100.5 prescribes policies 
and procedures for simplification, analysis, and review of regulations. 
If the expected cost impact is so minimal that a proposed or final rule 
does not warrant a full evaluation, this order permits that a statement 
to that effect, and the basis for it, be included in the preamble if a 
full regulatory evaluation of the cost and benefits is not prepared. A 
full regulatory evaluation was not prepared for this final rule. The 
reasoning for this determination follows:
Benefits
    This final rule incorporates the capabilities of current autopilots 
and will allow operators to more readily utilize the capabilities of 
future autopilots, flight guidance systems, and GNSS guidance systems 
as they are developed. These new capabilities accelerate the benefits 
of NextGen technologies and procedures that depend upon auto flight 
guidance systems to enhance aviation safety in the NAS. If operators 
pursue the lower minimum altitudes based on their autopilots' 
certification, they will realize benefits from increased ability to 
operate.
Costs
    This final rule specifies autopilot minimum use altitudes for parts 
121, 125 and 135 operators. This final rule is based on the 
capabilities of the aircraft and the minimum use altitudes or lack of 
minimum use altitudes published in the AFM. This final rule does not 
affect the minimum use altitudes presently used by operators in the 
NAS. Operators have the option to operate as they currently do or 
pursue the proposed lower minimum use altitudes based on their 
aircraft's autopilot certification. Operators with approved autopilots 
and wishing to immediately achieve the lower minimum use altitudes may 
incur the cost of accelerated training. This voluntary accelerated 
training cost is a change in present value, but not in total cost, 
because this type of training would have occurred in the future. 
Additionally, operators will not incur certification costs for 
aircraft, avionics equipment, autopilot and flight management systems 
that have already been certificated. Also, by setting new minimum 
altitudes for each phase of flight that approved equipment might 
operate to, this final rule gives manufacturers more certainty that new 
products can be used as they are developed.
    The FAA recognizes that autopilots in some older airplanes are not 
approved to utilize the lower minimum use altitudes. These operators 
will not incur any additional costs unless they seek new autopilot 
certifications. However, the FAA does not believe the majority of 
operators of older aircraft will seek to modify their aircraft in order 
to be approved for the lower minimum use altitudes. The FAA did not 
receive any public comments in response or contradiction to these 
findings. Due to the voluntary provisions of the rule, there are no 
quantifiable cost reductions.
    The FAA has, therefore, determined that this final rule does not 
qualify as a ``significant regulatory action'' as defined in section 
3(f) of Executive Order 12866, and is not ``significant'' as defined in 
DOT's Regulatory Policies and Procedures.

B. Regulatory Flexibility Determination

    The Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 (Pub. L. 96-354) (RFA) 
establishes ``as a principle of regulatory issuance that agencies shall 
endeavor, consistent with the objectives of the rule and of applicable 
statutes, to fit regulatory and informational requirements to the scale 
of the businesses, organizations, and governmental jurisdictions 
subject to regulation. To achieve this principle, agencies are required 
to solicit and consider flexible regulatory proposals and to explain 
the rationale for their actions to assure that such proposals are given 
serious consideration''. The RFA covers a wide-range of small entities, 
including small businesses, not-for-profit organizations, and small 
governmental jurisdictions.
    Agencies must perform a review to determine whether a 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 RFA. 
However, if an agency determines that a rule is not expected to have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities, 
section 605(b) of the RFA provides that the head of the agency may so 
certify and a regulatory flexibility analysis is not required. The 
certification must include a statement providing the factual basis for 
this determination, and the reasoning should be clear.
    In the initial regulatory flexibility analysis, the FAA stated the 
rule would not impose additional cost, because operators could choose 
to operate as they currently do. The FAA did not receive any public 
comments in response or contradiction to this finding. Therefore, as 
provided in section 605(b), the head of the FAA certifies that this 
rulemaking will not result in a significant economic impact on a 
substantial number of small entities.

C. International Trade Impact Assessment

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

[[Page 6086]]

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 final rule and determined that it is 
relieving, thus will not create unnecessary obstacles to the foreign 
commerce of the United States.

D. 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 $143.1 million in lieu of $100 
million. This final rule does not contain such a mandate; therefore, 
the requirements of Title II of the Act do not apply.

E. Paperwork Reduction Act

    The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3507(d)) requires 
that the FAA consider the impact of paperwork and other information 
collection burdens imposed on the public. The FAA has determined that 
there is no new requirement for information collection associated with 
this final rule.

F. 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 
determined that there are no ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices 
that correspond to these proposed regulations.
    Executive Order 13609, Promoting International Regulatory 
Cooperation, promotes international regulatory cooperation to meet 
shared challenges involving health, safety, labor, security, 
environmental, and other issues and to reduce, eliminate, or prevent 
unnecessary differences in regulatory requirements. The FAA has 
analyzed this action under the policies and agency responsibilities of 
Executive Order 13609, and has determined that this action would have 
no effect on international regulatory cooperation.

G. 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 rulemaking action qualifies for the 
categorical exclusion identified in paragraph 312f and involves no 
extraordinary circumstances.

V. Executive Order Determinations

A. Executive Order 13132, Federalism

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

B. Executive Order 13211, Regulations That Significantly Affect Energy 
Supply, Distribution, or Use

    The FAA analyzed this final rule 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 energy action'' under the executive order and it 
is not likely to have a significant adverse effect on the supply, 
distribution, or use of energy.

VI. How To Obtain Additional Information

A. Rulemaking Documents

    An electronic copy of a rulemaking document may be obtained by 
using the Internet--
    1. Search the Federal eRulemaking Portal (http://www.regulations.gov);
    2. Visit the FAA's Regulations and Policies Web page at http://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/or
    3. Access the Government Printing Office's Web page at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/.
    Copies may also be obtained by sending a request (identified by 
notice, amendment, or docket number of this rulemaking) to the Federal 
Aviation Administration, Office of Rulemaking, ARM-1, 800 Independence 
Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20591, or by calling (202) 267-9680.

B. Comments Submitted to the Docket

    Comments received may be viewed by going to http://www.regulations.gov and following the online instructions to search the 
docket number for this action. Anyone is able to search the electronic 
form of all comments received into any of the FAA's dockets by the name 
of the individual submitting the comment (or signing the comment, if 
submitted on behalf of an association, business, labor union, etc.).

C. Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act

    The Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) of 
1996 requires FAA to comply with small entity requests for information 
or advice about compliance with statutes and regulations within its 
jurisdiction. A small entity with questions regarding this document, 
may contact its local FAA official, or the person listed under the FOR 
FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT heading at the beginning of the preamble. 
To find out more about SBREFA on the Internet, visit http://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/rulemaking/sbre_act/.

List of Subjects

14 CFR Part 121

    Air carriers, Aircraft, Airmen, Aviation safety, Safety, 
Transportation.

14 CFR Part 125

    Aircraft, Airmen, Aviation safety.

14 CFR Part 135

    Air taxis, Aircraft, Airmen, Aviation safety.

The Amendment

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

PART 121--OPERATING REQUIREMENTS: DOMESTIC, FLAG, AND SUPPLEMENTAL 
OPERATIONS

0
1. The authority citation for part 121 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  49 U.S.C. 106(f), 106(g), 40113, 40119, 41706, 
44101, 44701-44702, 44705, 44709-44711, 44713, 44716-44717, 44722, 
46105.

0
2. Revise Sec.  121.579 to read as follows:


Sec.  121.579  Minimum altitudes for use of autopilot.

    (a) Definitions. For purpose of this section--
    (1) Altitudes for takeoff/initial climb and go-around/missed 
approach are defined as above the airport elevation.

[[Page 6087]]

    (2) Altitudes for enroute operations are defined as above terrain 
elevation.
    (3) Altitudes for approach are defined as above the touchdown zone 
elevation (TDZE), unless the altitude is specifically in reference to 
DA (H) or MDA, in which case the altitude is defined by reference to 
the DA(H) or MDA itself.
    (b) Takeoff and initial climb. No person may use an autopilot for 
takeoff or initial climb below the higher of 500 feet or an altitude 
that is no lower than twice the altitude loss specified in the Airplane 
Flight Manual (AFM), except as follows--
    (1) At a minimum engagement altitude specified in the AFM; or
    (2) At an altitude specified by the Administrator, whichever is 
greater.
    (c) Enroute. No person may use an autopilot enroute, including 
climb and descent, below the following--
    (1) 500 feet;
    (2) At an altitude that is no lower than twice the altitude loss 
specified in the AFM for an autopilot malfunction in cruise conditions; 
or
    (3) At an altitude specified by the Administrator, whichever is 
greater.
    (d) Approach. No person may use an autopilot at an altitude lower 
than 50 feet below the DA(H) or MDA for the instrument procedure being 
flown, except as follows--
    (1) For autopilots with an AFM specified altitude loss for approach 
operations--
    (i) An altitude no lower than twice the specified altitude loss if 
higher than 50 feet below the MDA or DA(H);
    (ii) An altitude no lower than 50 feet higher than the altitude 
loss specified in the AFM, when the following conditions are met--
    (A) Reported weather conditions are less than the basic VFR weather 
conditions in Sec.  91.155 of this chapter;
    (B) Suitable visual references specified in Sec.  91.175 of this 
chapter have been established on the instrument approach procedure; and
    (C) The autopilot is coupled and receiving both lateral and 
vertical path references;
    (iii) An altitude no lower than the higher of the altitude loss 
specified in the AFM or 50 feet above the TDZE, when the following 
conditions are met--
    (A) Reported weather conditions are equal to or better than the 
basic VFR weather conditions in Sec.  91.155 of this chapter; and
    (B) The autopilot is coupled and receiving both lateral and 
vertical path references; or
    (iv) A greater altitude specified by the Administrator.
    (2) For autopilots with AFM specified approach altitude 
limitations, the greater of--
    (i) The minimum use altitude specified for the coupled approach 
mode selected;
    (ii) 50 feet; or
    (iii) An altitude specified by Administrator.
    (3) For autopilots with an AFM specified negligible or zero 
altitude loss for an autopilot approach mode malfunction, the greater 
of--
    (i) 50 feet; or
    (ii) An altitude specified by Administrator.
    (4) If executing an autopilot coupled go-around or missed approach 
using a certificated and functioning autopilot in accordance with 
paragraph (e) in this section.
    (e) Go-Around/Missed Approach. No person may engage an autopilot 
during a go-around or missed approach below the minimum engagement 
altitude specified for takeoff and initial climb in paragraph (b) in 
this section. An autopilot minimum use altitude does not apply to a go-
around/missed approach initiated with an engaged autopilot. Performing 
a go-around or missed approach with an engaged autopilot must not 
adversely affect safe obstacle clearance.
    (f) Landing. Notwithstanding paragraph (d) of this section, 
autopilot minimum use altitudes do not apply to autopilot operations 
when an approved automatic landing system mode is being used for 
landing. Automatic landing systems must be authorized in an operations 
specification issued to the operator.

PART 125--CERTIFICATION AND OPERATIONS: AIRPLANES HAVING A SEATING 
CAPACITY OF 20 OR MORE PASSENGERS OR A MAXIMUM PAYLOAD CAPACITY OF 
6,000 POUNDS OR MORE; AND RULES GOVERNING PERSONS ON BOARD SUCH 
AIRCRAFT

0
3. The authority citation for part 125 is revised to read as follows:

    Authority:  49 U.S.C. 106(f), 106(g), 40113, 44701-44702, 44705, 
44710-44711, 44713, 44716-44717, 44722.

0
4. Revise Sec.  125.329 to read as follows:


Sec.  125.329  Minimum altitudes for use of autopilot.

    (a) Definitions. For purpose of this section--
    (1) Altitudes for takeoff/initial climb and go-around/missed 
approach are defined as above the airport elevation.
    (2) Altitudes for enroute operations are defined as above terrain 
elevation.
    (3) Altitudes for approach are defined as above the touchdown zone 
elevation (TDZE), unless the altitude is specifically in reference to 
DA (H) or MDA, in which case the altitude is defined by reference to 
the DA(H) or MDA itself.
    (b) Takeoff and initial climb. No person may use an autopilot for 
takeoff or initial climb below the higher of 500 feet or an altitude 
that is no lower than twice the altitude loss specified in the Airplane 
Flight Manual (AFM), except as follows--
    (1) At a minimum engagement altitude specified in the AFM; or
    (2) At an altitude specified by the Administrator, whichever is 
greater.
    (c) Enroute. No person may use an autopilot enroute, including 
climb and descent, below the following--
    (1) 500 feet;
    (2) At an altitude that is no lower than twice the altitude loss 
specified in the AFM for an autopilot malfunction in cruise conditions; 
or
    (3) At an altitude specified by the Administrator, whichever is 
greater.
    (d) Approach. No person may use an autopilot at an altitude lower 
than 50 feet below the DA(H) or MDA for the instrument procedure being 
flown, except as follows--
    (1) For autopilots with an AFM specified altitude loss for approach 
operations--
    (i) An altitude no lower than twice the specified altitude loss if 
higher than 50 feet below the MDA or DA(H);
    (ii) An altitude no lower than 50 feet higher than the altitude 
loss specified in the AFM, when the following conditions are met--
    (A) Reported weather conditions are less than the basic VFR weather 
conditions in Sec.  91.155 of this chapter;
    (B) Suitable visual references specified in Sec.  91.175 of this 
chapter have been established on the instrument approach procedure; and
    (C) The autopilot is coupled and receiving both lateral and 
vertical path references;
    (iii) An altitude no lower than the higher of the altitude loss 
specified in the AFM or 50 feet above the TDZE, when the following 
conditions are met--
    (A) Reported weather conditions are equal to or better than the 
basic VFR weather conditions in Sec.  91.155 of this chapter; and
    (B) The autopilot is coupled and receiving both lateral and 
vertical path references; or
    (iv) A greater altitude specified by the Administrator.
    (2) For autopilots with AFM specified approach altitude 
limitations, the greater of--

[[Page 6088]]

    (i) The minimum use altitude specified for the coupled approach 
mode selected;
    (ii) 50 feet; or
    (iii) An altitude specified by Administrator.
    (3) For autopilots with an AFM specified negligible or zero 
altitude loss for an autopilot approach mode malfunction, the greater 
of--
    (i) 50 feet; or
    (ii) An altitude specified by Administrator.
    (4) If executing an autopilot coupled go-around or missed approach 
using a certificated and functioning autopilot in accordance with 
paragraph (e) in this section.
    (e) Go-Around/Missed Approach. No person may engage an autopilot 
during a go-around or missed approach below the minimum engagement 
altitude specified for takeoff and initial climb in paragraph (b) in 
this section. An autopilot minimum use altitude does not apply to a go-
around/missed approach initiated with an engaged autopilot. Performing 
a go-around or missed approach with an engaged autopilot must not 
adversely affect safe obstacle clearance.
    (f) Landing. Notwithstanding paragraph (d) of this section, 
autopilot minimum use altitudes do not apply to autopilot operations 
when an approved automatic landing system mode is being used for 
landing. Automatic landing systems must be authorized in an operations 
specification issued to the operator.

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

0
5. The authority citation for part 135 continues to read as follows:

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

0
6. Revise Sec.  135.93 to read as follows:


Sec.  135.93  Minimum altitudes for use of autopilot.

    (a) Definitions. For purpose of this section--
    (1) Altitudes for takeoff/initial climb and go-around/missed 
approach are defined as above the airport elevation.
    (2) Altitudes for enroute operations are defined as above terrain 
elevation.
    (3) Altitudes for approach are defined as above the touchdown zone 
elevation (TDZE), unless the altitude is specifically in reference to 
DA (H) or MDA, in which case the altitude is defined by reference to 
the DA(H) or MDA itself.
    (b) Takeoff and initial climb. No person may use an autopilot for 
takeoff or initial climb below the higher of 500 feet or an altitude 
that is no lower than twice the altitude loss specified in the Airplane 
Flight Manual (AFM), except as follows--
    (1) At a minimum engagement altitude specified in the AFM; or
    (2) At an altitude specified by the Administrator, whichever is 
greater.
    (c) Enroute. No person may use an autopilot enroute, including 
climb and descent, below the following--
    (1) 500 feet;
    (2) At an altitude that is no lower than twice the altitude loss 
specified in the AFM for an autopilot malfunction in cruise conditions; 
or
    (3) At an altitude specified by the Administrator, whichever is 
greater.
    (d) Approach. No person may use an autopilot at an altitude lower 
than 50 feet below the DA(H) or MDA for the instrument procedure being 
flown, except as follows--
    (1) For autopilots with an AFM specified altitude loss for approach 
operations--
    (i) An altitude no lower than twice the specified altitude loss if 
higher than 50 feet below the MDA or DA(H);
    (ii) An altitude no lower than 50 feet higher than the altitude 
loss specified in the AFM, when the following conditions are met--
    (A) Reported weather conditions are less than the basic VFR weather 
conditions in Sec.  91.155 of this chapter;
    (B) Suitable visual references specified in Sec.  91.175 of this 
chapter have been established on the instrument approach procedure; and
    (C) The autopilot is coupled and receiving both lateral and 
vertical path references;
    (iii) An altitude no lower than the higher of the altitude loss 
specified in the AFM or 50 feet above the TDZE, when the following 
conditions are met--
    (A) Reported weather conditions are equal to or better than the 
basic VFR weather conditions in Sec.  91.155 of this chapter; and
    (B) The autopilot is coupled and receiving both lateral and 
vertical path references; or
    (iv) A greater altitude specified by the Administrator.
    (2) For autopilots with AFM specified approach altitude 
limitations, the greater of--
    (i) The minimum use altitude specified for the coupled approach 
mode selected;
    (ii) 50 feet; or
    (iii) An altitude specified by Administrator.
    (3) For autopilots with an AFM specified negligible or zero 
altitude loss for an autopilot approach mode malfunction, the greater 
of--
    (i) 50 feet; or
    (ii) An altitude specified by Administrator.
    (4) If executing an autopilot coupled go-around or missed approach 
using a certificated and functioning autopilot in accordance with 
paragraph (e) in this section.
    (e) Go-Around/Missed Approach. No person may engage an autopilot 
during a go-around or missed approach below the minimum engagement 
altitude specified for takeoff and initial climb in paragraph (b) in 
this section. An autopilot minimum use altitude does not apply to a go-
around/missed approach initiated with an engaged autopilot. Performing 
a go-around or missed approach with an engaged autopilot must not 
adversely affect safe obstacle clearance.
    (f) Landing. Notwithstanding paragraph (d) of this section, 
autopilot minimum use altitudes do not apply to autopilot operations 
when an approved automatic landing system mode is being used for 
landing. Automatic landing systems must be authorized in an operations 
specification issued to the operator.
    (g) This section does not apply to operations conducted in 
rotorcraft.

    Issued under authority provided by 49 U.S.C. 106(f) and 
44701(a)(5) in Washington, DC, on December 24, 2013.
Michael P. Huerta,
Administrator.
[FR Doc. 2014-02123 Filed 1-31-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-13-P