[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 35 (Friday, February 21, 2014)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 9931-9979]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-03689]



[[Page 9931]]

Vol. 79

Friday,

No. 35

February 21, 2014

Part II





Department of Transportation





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Federal Aviation Administration





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14 CFR Parts 91, 120, and 135





 Helicopter Air Ambulance, Commercial Helicopter, and Part 91 
Helicopter Operations; Final Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 79 , No. 35 / Friday, February 21, 2014 / 
Rules and Regulations

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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Aviation Administration

14 CFR Parts 91, 120, and 135

[Docket No.: FAA-2010-0982; Amdt. Nos. 91-330; 120-2; 135-129]
RIN 2120-AJ53


Helicopter Air Ambulance, Commercial Helicopter, and Part 91 
Helicopter Operations

AGENCY: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: This final rule addresses helicopter air ambulance, commercial 
helicopter, and general aviation helicopter operations. To address an 
increase in fatal helicopter air ambulance accidents, the FAA is 
implementing new operational procedures and additional equipment 
requirements for helicopter air ambulance operations. This final rule 
also increases safety for commercial helicopter operations by revising 
requirements for equipment, pilot testing, and alternate airports. It 
increases weather minimums for all general aviation helicopter 
operations. Many of these requirements address National Transportation 
Safety Board safety recommendations, and are already found in FAA 
guidance. Today's changes are intended to provide certificate holders 
and pilots with additional tools and procedures that will aid in 
preventing accidents.

DATES: This rule is effective April 22, 2014. Affected parties, 
however, do not have to comply with the information collection 
requirements in Sec. Sec.  120.105(i), 120.215(a)(9), 135.615, 135.617, 
135.619, and 135.621 until the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) 
approves the collection and assigns a control number under the 
Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. The FAA will publish in the Federal 
Register a notice of the control number assigned by OMB for these 
information collection requirements.
    The incorporation by reference of certain publications listed in 
Sec. Sec.  135.168 and 135.605 is approved by the Director of the 
Federal Register as of April 22, 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'' in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION 
section of this document.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For technical questions about this 
action contact Andy Pierce, Aviation Safety Inspector, Flight Standards 
Service, 135 Air Carrier Operations Branch, AFS-250, Federal Aviation 
Administration, 800 Independence Ave. SW., Washington, DC 20591; 
telephone: (202) 267-8238; email andy.pierce@faa.gov.
    For legal questions about this action contact Dean E. Griffith, 
Office of the Chief Counsel, AGC-220, Federal Aviation Administration, 
800 Independence Ave. SW., Washington, DC 20591; telephone: (202) 267-
3073; email dean.griffith@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 (U.S.C.). This rulemaking is 
promulgated under the general authority described in 49 U.S.C. 106(f) 
and 44701(a), and the specific authority set forth in section 306 of 
the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (Pub. L. 112-95), which is 
now codified at 49 U.S.C. 44730.
    Specifically, 49 U.S.C. 44730 requires that part 135 certificate 
holders providing air ambulance services comply with part 135 
regulations pertaining to weather minimums and flight and duty time 
when medical personnel are onboard the aircraft. The statute also 
directs the FAA to conduct rulemaking on helicopter air ambulance 
operations to address: (1) Flight request and dispatch procedures; (2) 
pilot training standards for preventing controlled flight into terrain 
and recovery from IIMC; and (3) safety-enhancing technology and 
equipment, including, HTAWS, radio altimeters, and, to the extent 
feasible, devices that perform the function of flight data recorders 
and cockpit voice recorders. Further, section 44730 requires the 
rulemaking to address: (1) Flight risk evaluation programs; and (2) 
operational control centers for helicopter air ambulance services with 
10 or more helicopters. In addition, the statute directs the FAA to 
issue a final rule by June 1, 2012 with respect to the NPRM published 
in the Federal Register on October 12, 2010 (75 FR 62640).

List of Abbreviations and Acronyms Used in This Document

AC--Advisory Circular
ARC--Aviation Rulemaking Committee
AWOS--Automated Weather Observation System
CFIT--Controlled Flight into Terrain
CVR--Cockpit Voice Recorder
ELT--Emergency Locator Transmitter
EMS--Emergency Medical Service
FDR--Flight Data Recorder
FDMS--Flight Data Monitoring System
FOQA--Flight Operational Quality Assurance
GPS--Global Positioning System
HEMS--Helicopter Emergency Medical Services
HTAWS--Helicopter Terrain Awareness and Warning System
ICAO--International Civil Aviation Organization
IFR--Instrument Flight Rules
IMC--Instrument Meteorological Conditions
LARS--Light-weight Aircraft Recording System
MHz--Megahertz
MEL--Minimum Equipment List
MOU--Memorandum of Understanding
NM--Nautical Mile
NPRM--Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
NTSB--National Transportation Safety Board
NVG--Night Vision Goggles
NVIS--Night-Vision Imaging System
OCC--Operations Control Center
OCS--Operations Control Specialist
OpSpec--Operations Specification
PinS--Point-in-Space Approach
PV--Present Value
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. Related Actions
    C. NTSB Recommendations
    D. Congressional Action
    E. Summary of the NPRM
    F. General Overview of Comments
III. Discussion of Public Comments and Final Rule
    A. Weather Minimums for Helicopters Flying Under Visual Flight 
Rules in Class G Airspace (Sec.  91.155)
    B. Load Manifest Requirement for All Aircraft Operating Under 
Part 135 (Sec.  135.63)
    C. Rules Applicable to All Part 135 Helicopter Operations
    1. Radio Altimeter (Sec.  135.160)
    2. Safety Equipment for Overwater Operations (Sec. Sec.  1.1, 
135.117, 135.167, and 135.168)
    3. Pilot Testing for Recovery From IIMC, Whiteout, Brownout, and 
Flat-Light Conditions (Sec.  135.293)
    4. IFR Alternate Airport Weather Minimums (Sec.  135.221)
    D. Rules Applicable to Helicopter Air Ambulance Operations
    1. Applicability of Part 135 Rules to Helicopter Air Ambulance 
Operations (Sec. Sec.  135.1, 135.267, 135.271, 135.601)
    2. Weather Minimums (Sec.  135.609)
    3. IFR Operations at Airports Without Weather Reporting (Sec.  
135.611)
    4. Approach/Departure IFR Transitions (Sec.  135.613)
    5. VFR Flight Planning (Sec.  135.615)
    6. Pre-Flight Risk Analysis (Sec.  135.617)
    7. Operations Control Centers (Sec. Sec.  135.619, 120.105, and 
120.215)

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    8. Briefing of Medical Personnel (Sec. Sec.  135.117, 135.621)
    9. Helicopter Terrain Awareness and Warning Systems (HTAWS) 
(Sec.  135.605)
    10. Flight Data Monitoring System (Sec.  135.607)
    11. Pilot Instrument Ratings (Sec.  135.603)
    E. General Comments
IV. Regulatory Notices and Analysis
    A. Regulatory Evaluation
    B. Regulatory Flexibility Determination
    C. Regulatory Flexibility Analysis
    D. International Trade Impact Assessment
    E. Unfunded Mandates Assessment
    F. Paperwork Reduction Act
    G. International Compatibility
    H. Environmental Analysis
    I. Regulations Affecting Intrastate Aviation in Alaska
V. Executive Order Determinations
    A. Executive Order 13132, Federalism
    B. Executive Order 13211, Regulations That Significantly Affect 
Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use
VI. How To Obtain Additional Information
    A. Rulemaking Documents
    B. Comments Submitted to the Docket
    C. Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act
Table 1 Affected Entities
Table 2 Comparison of Benefits and Costs Over 10 Years by Population
Table 3 Costs Over 10 Years by Rule Provision
Table 4 VFR Minimum Altitudes and Visibility Requirements
Table 5 SBA Size Standards
Table 6 Cost and Present Value (PV) Costs for Small Air Ambulance 
Operators That Apply to the Paperwork Provision

I. Executive Summary

    The provisions of this rule are directed primarily toward 
helicopter air ambulance operations and all commercial helicopter 
operations conducted under part 135. This rule also establishes new 
weather minimums for helicopters operating under part 91 in Class G 
airspace.
    For helicopter air ambulances, this rule requires operations with 
medical personnel on board to be conducted under part 135 operating 
rules and introduces new weather minimums and visibility requirements 
for part 135 operations. It mandates flight planning, preflight risk 
analyses, safety briefings for medical personnel, and the establishment 
of operations control centers (OCC) for certain operators to help with 
risk management and flight monitoring. The rule also includes 
provisions to encourage instrument flight rules (IFR) operations. It 
requires helicopter air ambulances to be equipped with both helicopter 
terrain awareness and warning systems (HTAWS) (the HTAWS will warn 
pilots about obstacles in their flight path), and flight data 
monitoring systems. Finally, helicopter air ambulance pilots will be 
required to hold instrument ratings.
    For all helicopters operated under part 135, these rules require 
that operators carry more survival equipment for operations over water. 
Alternate airports named in flight plans must have higher weather 
minimums than are currently required. These helicopters must be 
equipped with radio altimeters and pilots must be able to demonstrate 
that they can maneuver the aircraft during an inadvertent encounter 
with instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) to get out of those 
conditions safely.
    Additionally, this rule contains a provision affecting part 91 
helicopter operations. The rule assigns new weather minimums to part 91 
helicopter operations in Class G airspace.
    Below, Table 1 shows those affected by today's new rules and how 
existing rules are being changed; Table 2 shows the costs and benefits 
of the rule by affected population; and Table 3 shows the cost of the 
rule by rule provision.

                       Table 1--Affected Entities
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                                      Requirements established by this
         Affected entities                          rule
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Part 91--All Helicopter Operators.  Revises Sec.   91.155 Class G
                                     airspace weather minimums for part
                                     91 helicopter operations. This rule
                                     provides a greater margin of safety
                                     for operators because pilots are
                                     required to maintain a fixed amount
                                     of visibility and would be less
                                     likely to suddenly encounter
                                     instrument meteorological
                                     conditions (IMC).
Part 135--All Rotorcraft Operators   Requires each rotorcraft to
                                     be equipped with a radio altimeter
                                     (Sec.   135.160). Radio altimeters
                                     can greatly improve a pilot's
                                     awareness of height above the
                                     ground during hover, landing in
                                     unimproved landing zones, and
                                     landings in confined areas where a
                                     more vertical approach may be
                                     required. Additionally, radio
                                     altimeters help increase
                                     situational awareness during
                                     inadvertent flight into instrument
                                     meteorological conditions (IIMC),
                                     night operations, and flat-light,
                                     whiteout, and brownout conditions.
                                     Adds Sec.   135.168
                                     equipment requirements for
                                     rotorcraft operated over water.
                                     Helicopter operations conducted
                                     over water will be required to
                                     carry additional safety equipment
                                     to assist passengers and crew in
                                     the event an accident occurs over
                                     water.
                                     Revises alternate airport
                                     weather minimums for rotorcraft in
                                     Sec.   135.221. This rule improves
                                     the likelihood of being able to
                                     land at the alternate airport if
                                     weather conditions in the area
                                     deteriorate while the helicopter is
                                     en route.
                                     Revises Sec.   135.293 to
                                     require pilot testing of rotorcraft
                                     handling in flat-light, whiteout,
                                     and brownout conditions and
                                     demonstration of competency in
                                     recovery from an IIMC. This rule
                                     improves safety by increasing a
                                     pilot's likelihood of escaping and
                                     handling IIMC and other hazards.
Part 135--Helicopter Air Ambulance   Requires helicopter air
 Operators..                         ambulance flights with medical
                                     personnel on board to be conducted
                                     under part 135 (Sec.  Sec.   135.1,
                                     135.601). The safety of helicopter
                                     air ambulance flights, including
                                     the welfare of the medical
                                     personnel and patients on board,
                                     will be increased when complying
                                     with the more stringent part 135
                                     rules rather than part 91 rules.
                                     Requires certificate
                                     holders with 10 or more helicopter
                                     air ambulances to establish
                                     operations control centers (OCC)
                                     (Sec.   135.619) and requires drug
                                     and alcohol testing for operations
                                     control specialists (Sec.  Sec.
                                     120.105 and 120.215). OCC personnel
                                     will communicate with pilots,
                                     provide weather information,
                                     monitor flights and assist with
                                     preflight risk assessments
                                     providing an additional measure of
                                     safety for complex operations.
                                     Operations control specialists
                                     perform safety-sensitive functions,
                                     similar to an aircraft dispatcher,
                                     and therefore must be subject to
                                     the restrictions on drug and
                                     alcohol use.
                                     Requires helicopter air
                                     ambulances to be equipped with
                                     HTAWS (Sec.   135.605). HTAWS will
                                     assist helicopter air ambulance
                                     pilots in maintaining situational
                                     awareness of surrounding terrain
                                     and obstacles, and therefore help
                                     prevent accidents.

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                                     Requires helicopter air
                                     ambulances to be equipped with a
                                     flight data monitoring system (Sec.
                                       135.607). This will promote
                                     operational safety and can provide
                                     critical information to
                                     investigators in the event of an
                                     accident.
                                     Requires each helicopter
                                     air ambulance operator to establish
                                     and document, in its operations
                                     manual, an FAA-approved preflight
                                     risk analysis (Sec.   135.617). A
                                     preflight risk analysis provides
                                     certificate holders with the means
                                     to assess and mitigate risk, and
                                     make determinations regarding the
                                     flight's safety before launch.
                                     Requires pilots to identify
                                     and document the highest obstacle
                                     along the planned route (Sec.
                                     135.615). This rule will prevent
                                     obstacle collisions by requiring
                                     pilots to be aware of the terrain
                                     and obstacles along their route.
                                     Requires safety briefings
                                     or training for helicopter air
                                     ambulance medical personnel (Sec.
                                     135.621). Medical personnel will be
                                     less likely to inadvertently
                                     introduce risk to an operation
                                     because of increased familiarity
                                     with the aircraft and emergency
                                     procedures.
                                     Establishes visual flight
                                     rules (VFR) weather minimums for
                                     helicopter air ambulance operations
                                     (Sec.   135.609). More stringent
                                     VFR weather minimums for helicopter
                                     air ambulances operations in
                                     uncontrolled airspace will have the
                                     effect of ensuring that these
                                     operations are not conducted in
                                     marginal weather conditions.
                                     Permits instrument flight
                                     rules (IFR) operations at airports
                                     without weather reporting (Sec.
                                     135.611). This rule is intended to
                                     facilitate IFR operations by
                                     helicopter air ambulance operators
                                     and result in more aircraft
                                     operating in a positively
                                     controlled environment, thereby
                                     increasing safety.
                                     Establishes procedures for
                                     transitioning between IFR and VFR
                                     on approach to, and departure from,
                                     heliports or landing areas (Sec.
                                     135.613). This rule benefits pilots
                                     by enabling them to access more
                                     destinations by flying within the
                                     IFR structure and its associated
                                     safety benefits.
                                     Requires pilots in command
                                     to hold an instrument rating (Sec.
                                      135.603). Having the skills to
                                     navigate by instruments will assist
                                     helicopter air ambulance pilots to
                                     extract themselves from dangerous
                                     situations such as inadvertent
                                     flight into IMC.
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                                     [GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR21FE14.000
                                     

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II. Background

A. Statement of the Problem

    Helicopter air ambulance accidents reached historic levels during 
the years from 2003 through 2008.\1\ The year 2008 was the deadliest. 
In 2008, five air ambulance accidents killed 21 people, including 
pilots, patients, and medical personnel. This rule addresses the causes 
of 62 helicopter air ambulance accidents that occurred during the 
period from 1991 through 2010. One hundred twenty-five people died in 
those accidents. The FAA identified four common factors in those 
accidents--inadvertent flight into IMC, loss of control, controlled 
flight into terrain (which includes mountains, ground, water, and man-
made obstacles), and night conditions.
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    \1\ GAO, Aviation Safety: Potential Strategies to Address Air 
Ambulance Safety Concerns (2009).
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    Helicopter air ambulances operate under unique conditions. Their 
flights are often time sensitive, which puts pressure on the pilots. 
Helicopter air ambulances fly at low altitudes and under varied weather 
conditions. They must often land at unfamiliar, remote, or unimproved 
sites with hazards like trees, buildings, towers, wires, and uneven 
terrain. In an emergency, many patients will not have a choice of 
whether they want to be transported in a helicopter or not. They may be 
in a medical condition that prevents them from making decisions about 
transportation or indicating what they want. They cannot choose between 
competing carriers because the company that responds to the scene may 
be either the first one called or the only one in the area. For these 
reasons, the FAA is establishing more stringent safety regulations to 
protect patients, medical personnel, flightcrew members, and other 
passengers onboard helicopter air ambulances.
    The FAA also identified an increase in accidents in other 
commercial helicopter operations. This rule addresses the causes of 20 
commercial helicopter accidents that occurred from 1991 through 2010. 
Thirty-nine people died in those accidents. Also from 1991 to 2010, 
there were 49 accidents that occurred while the helicopter was 
operating under basic VFR weather minimums and those accidents caused 
63 fatalities. The FAA has determined that these accidents may have 
been prevented if pilots and helicopters were better equipped for IIMC, 
flat-light, whiteout, and brownout conditions, and for flights over 
water.\2\
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    \2\ Flat light is the diffused lighting that occurs under cloudy 
skies, especially when the ground is snow-covered, greatly impairing 
the pilot's ability to perceive depth, distance, altitude, or 
topographical features when operating under VFR. See NTSB Safety 
Recommendation A-02-33. Whiteout occurs when parallel rays of the 
sun are broken up and diffused when passing through the cloud layer 
so that they strike a snow-covered surface from many angles. The 
diffused light then reflects back and forth countless times between 
the snow and the cloud, eliminating all shadows, resulting in loss 
of depth perception. See FAA AC 00-6A, Aviation Weather for Pilots 
and Flight Operations Personnel. Brownout conditions occur when sand 
or other particles restrict visibility and depth perception.
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    In addition to addressing the causal factors of these accidents, 
this rule also addresses National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) 
safety recommendations and recommendations made by the Part 125/135 
Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC).

B. Related Actions

    The FAA has taken actions to address the problem of helicopter 
accidents, such as developing standards and issuing guidance, which 
were discussed in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) (published 
October 12, 2010). In addition to the actions noted there, the FAA has 
revised its guidance materials to align with the provisions of this new 
rule.
ARC Recommendations
    On April 8, 2003, the FAA formed the Part 125/135 ARC. This group 
was tasked to perform a comprehensive review of parts 125 and 135 and 
provide recommendations on rule changes. The ARC had close to 200 
participants, representing a broad range of interests, and included 
members of the operator community, unions, trade associations, 
government, and manufacturers. The ARC worked for 2 years--from 2003 to 
2005--and had eight working groups studying a wide range of subjects. 
They made the recommendations for helicopter air ambulance operations 
and other commercial helicopter operations that form the basis of 
several of the provisions in this final rule. ARC proposals addressed 
in this rulemaking include equipping helicopters with radio altimeters, 
increasing weather minimums for helicopter air ambulance operations, 
requiring additional safety equipment for overwater operations, 
requiring pilot testing on recovery from IIMC, and revising alternate 
airport weather requirements for instrument flight rules.

C. NTSB Recommendations for Helicopter Operations

    Many of the requirements in this rule were developed, in part, in 
response to safety recommendations from the NTSB. The following is a 
list of those recommendations, what they required, and how they relate 
to the rules being codified today.
Recommendations on Helicopter Air Ambulance Operations
    A-06-12--Recommends that the FAA require all emergency medical 
services (EMS) operators to comply with 14 CFR part 135 operations 
specifications during the conduct of flights with medical personnel on 
board. The FAA has addressed this recommendation in Sec.  135.1, which 
requires helicopter air ambulance operations to be conducted under part 
135 rules.
    A-06-13--Recommends that the FAA require all EMS operators to 
develop and implement flight-risk evaluation programs that include 
training for all employees involved in the operation, procedures that 
support the systematic evaluation of flight risks, and consultation 
with others in emergency medical service flight operations if the risks 
reach a predefined level. The FAA has partially addressed this 
recommendation in Sec.  135.617, which requires a preflight risk 
analysis prior to helicopter air ambulance operations.
    A-06-14--Recommends that the FAA require EMS operators to use 
formalized dispatch and flight-monitoring procedures that include up-
to-date weather information and assistance in flight risk assessment 
decisions. The FAA has partially addressed this recommendation in Sec.  
135.619, which requires OCCs for certificate holders with 10 or more 
helicopter air ambulances.
    A-06-15--Recommends that the FAA require EMS operators to install 
terrain awareness and warning systems on their aircraft and to provide 
adequate training to ensure that flightcrews are capable of using those 
systems to safely conduct EMS operations. The FAA addressed this 
recommendation in Sec.  135.605, which requires equipping helicopter 
air ambulances with HTAWS.
    A-09-87--Recommends that the FAA develop criteria for scenario-
based helicopter EMS pilot training that includes IIMC and hazards 
unique to helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS), and determine 
how frequently this training is required to ensure proficiency. The FAA 
has addressed this recommendation by revising Sec.  135.293, which 
would require that pilots be tested on recognizing and avoiding flat-
light, whiteout, and brownout conditions, and that they demonstrate 
recovery from IIMC.
    A-09-89--Recommends that the FAA require helicopter air ambulance 
operators to implement a safety

[[Page 9936]]

management system program that includes sound risk management 
practices. The FAA partially addressed this recommendation by requiring 
elements of a safety management system program for helicopter air 
ambulance operators. Section 135.607 requires equipping helicopter air 
ambulances with flight data monitoring systems, which can be used to 
identify risk. Sec.  135.617 requires a preflight risk analysis for 
helicopter air ambulance operations, and Sec.  135.619 requires OCCs 
for certificate holders with 10 or more helicopter air ambulances.
    A-09-90--Recommends that the FAA require helicopter air ambulance 
operators to 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. The FAA has partially 
addressed this recommendation in Sec.  135.607, which requires 
equipping helicopter air ambulances with flight data monitoring 
devices.
Recommendations for 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. The FAA has 
addressed this recommendation by revising Sec.  135.293, which requires 
testing pilots for recognition and avoidance of flat-light, whiteout, 
and brownout conditions, and a demonstration of recovery from IIMC. 
Also Sec.  135.603, which requires an instrument rating for helicopter 
air ambulance pilots, addresses this recommendation.
    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 those conditions in their approved training programs. 
The FAA has partially addressed this recommendation in Sec.  135.293, 
which requires pilot testing on recognizing and avoiding flat-light, 
whiteout, and brownout conditions, and a demonstration of recovery from 
IIMC.
    A-02-35--Recommends that the FAA require installation of radio 
altimeters in all helicopters conducting commercial, passenger-carrying 
operations in areas where flat-light or whiteout conditions routinely 
occur. The FAA has addressed this recommendation in Sec.  135.160, 
which requires installation of a radio altimeter in every helicopter 
operated under part 135.
    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 and a flight data 
recorder. The FAA has partially addressed this recommendation in Sec.  
135.607, which requires equipping helicopter air ambulances with a 
flight data monitoring system.
    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 enough to accommodate all occupants. As 
discussed below this recommendation is not addressed by this final 
rule.
    A-07-88--Recommends that the FAA require all off-shore helicopter 
operators in the Gulf of Mexico to provide their flightcrews with 
personal flotation devices equipped with a waterproof global-
positioning-system-enabled 406 megahertz (MHz) personal locater beacon, 
as well as one other signaling device, such as a signaling mirror or 
strobe light. The FAA partially addresses this recommendation in Sec.  
135.168, which requires that helicopters used in operations beyond 
autorotational distance from the shoreline be equipped with a 406 MHz 
locator beacon with a 121.5 MHz homing capability and that passengers 
wear life preservers when over water.
    A-99-61--Recommends that the FAA amend record-keeping requirements 
in Sec.  135.63(c) to apply to single-engine as well as multiengine 
aircraft. As discussed below this recommendation is not addressed by 
this final rule.

D. Congressional Action

    On February 14, 2012, President Obama signed into law the FAA 
Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (Pub. L. 112-95). Section 306 of 
the Act requires that part 135 certificate holders providing air 
ambulance services to comply with part 135 regulations pertaining to 
weather minimums and flight and duty time when medical personnel are 
onboard the aircraft. Section 306 also directs the FAA to conduct 
rulemaking on helicopter air ambulance operations which will address: 
(1) Flight request and dispatch procedures; (2) pilot training 
standards for preventing controlled flight into terrain and recovery 
from IIMC; and (3) safety-enhancing technology and equipment including, 
HTAWS, radio altimeters, and, to the extent feasible, devices that 
perform the function of flight data recorders and cockpit voice 
recorders. Additionally, the Act requires the rulemaking to address: 
(1) Flight risk evaluation programs; and (2) operational control 
centers for helicopter air ambulance services with 10 or more 
helicopters.
    The FAA is also directed to conduct a subsequent rulemaking 
addressing pilot training standards, and the use of safety equipment 
that should be worn or used by flight crewmembers and medical personnel 
on helicopter air ambulance flights.
    Section 318 of the Act requires the FAA to study the ``feasibility 
of requiring pilots of helicopters providing air ambulance services 
under part 135 . . . to use NVGs during nighttime operations.''

E. Summary of the NPRM

    An NPRM was published in the Federal Register on October 12, 2010 
(75 FR 62640). That notice proposed--
     Revised weather minimums for all helicopter operations 
under part 91.
     New load manifest requirements for all aircraft operations 
under part 135.
     New operations, training, and equipment requirements for 
all helicopter operations under part 135.
     New operations, training, equipment, and flightcrew 
requirements for helicopter air ambulance operations under part 135.
    The comment period for that NPRM closed on January 10, 2011.

F. General Overview of Comments

    The FAA received 179 comments about the proposal for this 
rulemaking. Among those commenting were 32 operators, 11 manufacturers, 
and 13 associations. Almost all of the commenters expressed support for 
the intent of the proposal but many suggested changes to individual 
requirements. Almost all of the provisions of the rule received some 
comment.

III. Discussion of Public Comments and Final Rule

    This final rule affects three categories of operators--part 91 
helicopter operators, part 135 helicopter operators, and helicopter air 
ambulance operators in part 135. Although addressed in the NPRM, the 
final rule does not contain a load manifest requirement for all 
aircraft operations under part 135. Following is a discussion of the 
current standards, each new rule as it was proposed, the public 
comments that

[[Page 9937]]

were received about that rule, and the final rule as it is adopted 
today.

A. Weather Minimums for Helicopters Flying Under Visual Flight Rules in 
Class G Airspace (Sec.  91.155)

    Currently, helicopters operating in Class G airspace, under VFR and 
less than 1,200 feet above the surface, are required by Sec.  
91.155(b)(1) to remain clear of clouds and to operate at a speed that 
gives the pilot adequate opportunity to see any air traffic or 
obstruction in time to avoid a collision. The FAA proposed to revise 
Sec.  91.155 to establish a minimum \1/2\ statute mile visibility by 
day and one statute mile visibility at night. The FAA received comments 
expressing support for the proposal from the Air Medical Operators 
Association (AMOA), PHI Air Medical (PHI), NTSB, the National EMS 
Pilots Association (NEMSPA), members of the Association of Critical 
Care Transport (ACCT), LifeFlight of Maine, and REACH Air Medical 
Services, LLC (REACH). Other commenters expressed opposition based on 
the FAA's accident analysis and concern over operational limitations 
that are discussed below.
Accident Analysis
    The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) commented that the FAA 
failed to provide documentation to support a change to Sec.  91.155 for 
all general aviation and commercial helicopter operators. Kestrel Air 
commented that the FAA did not correlate the air ambulance accident 
rate with whether the helicopter was operating under part 91 or part 
135. It noted that in the NPRM, the FAA cited emotional pressure on 
pilots to fly if they believed their flight could save lives, and said 
that this was considered a significant factor in the air ambulance 
industry's higher accident rate. Kestrel said that this factor is 
lacking in other part 91 operations, so there is no basis to presume 
the proposed change would have any positive impact on these other 
operators. The FAA notes that many operations under part 91, such as 
firefighting, police work, crop spraying, pipeline patrol, and power 
line repair can put pressure on a pilot and may be a contributing 
factor in their industry's accident rate.
    Air Shasta Rotor and Wing, LLC (Air Shasta) commented that in a 
review of the last 5 years of NTSB non-EMS part 91 helicopter accident 
data, it was ``unable to find a particular accident that could have 
been avoided if the pilot did not have the proposed requirement'' of 
\1/2\ mile visibility and clear of clouds. Likewise, Westlog, Inc. 
(Westlog) claimed that it could not find any accidents in the last 5 
years of NTSB data that could have been avoided under this change.
    The FAA acknowledges that the NPRM did not contain accident data 
relating to this proposed change. However, in response to these 
comments, the FAA conducted a review of accidents to determine whether 
NTSB accident data supports the proposal. A review of the accident 
history for the period from 1991 to 2010, the same time period used for 
the other provisions of this rule, showed that there were 49 helicopter 
accidents resulting in 63 deaths that may have been prevented had this 
rule been in place. The FAA determined that these accidents, which 
occurred when visibility was less than \1/2\ mile during the day or 1 
mile at night, and for which controlled flight into terrain, fog, rain, 
or other adverse weather were contributing factors, may have been 
prevented had the rule been in effect. Accordingly, the FAA has 
determined that the accident history supports this change.
Operational Limitations
    Several commenters expressed concern that the proposed change would 
prevent operations that are currently being conducted safely. EAA 
stated that Sec.  91.155 has been in effect since the early 1970s and 
has been safely used since that time. It noted that many helicopter 
operations such as firefighting, wildlife surveys, logging operations, 
off-shore fish sighting surveys, herding, crop spraying, and power 
line/high tension wire maintenance/surveys occur from remote field 
bases, with the majority of operations occurring close to those bases. 
Further, EAA stated that pilots, based on their experience, are the 
best judge of what speed and visibility are acceptable for safe 
operation in those circumstances and that ``to impose a visibility 
limit shows the FAA does not truly understand the entire scope of what 
commercial and private helicopter missions are and their combined 
effect on the national economy.''
    Commenters from EGLI Air Haul also believe that part 91 should 
remain unchanged so that the pilot can decide whether visibility is 
adequate. In support of leaving the regulation unchanged, they cited an 
instance when an EGLI pilot made a decision to fly in conditions below 
those proposed in the NPRM to aid survivors of an airplane crash who 
were trapped on a mountainside. They contend that the proposed change 
to Sec.  91.155 would have prevented this pilot from reaching the 
survivors.
    The Los Angeles County Sheriff's department wrote that public 
safety agencies must be able to make ``go/no go'' decisions based on 
the higher experience level of their pilots and knowledge of the local 
flying areas. The commenter stated that weather restrictions would 
limit its ability to perform numerous search and rescue missions. Air 
Shasta also stated that a ``detrimental consequence of these proposed 
limitations would be cancelling or delaying of search and rescue 
missions'' it occasionally performs.
    Westlog stated that the current requirement is safe for helicopters 
operating clear of clouds because they can stop and land at zero 
airspeed and commented that this helicopter operation is safer than an 
airplane operating clear of clouds at night with one mile of visibility 
when within \1/2\ mile of the runway under Sec.  91.155(b)(2). 
Additionally, Westlog noted that it operates in coastal Oregon and 
Northern California and frequents uncontrolled airports served by 
automated weather observation systems (AWOS). Because coastal advection 
fog is common in this area, the commenter explained, an AWOS will often 
report \1/4\ mile visibility when over half the airport is clear, with 
15 miles visibility or more. Westlog claimed that, even with a reported 
\1/4\ mile visibility, a helicopter can take off safely under visual 
flight rules by simply departing into the non-foggy area. Air Shasta 
similarly commented that it has performed numerous searches when 
conditions at the departure airport were below what was proposed in the 
NPRM, but where it could find a point at the airport that was clear 
enough to depart safely.
    One commenter, Safety and Flight Evaluations, International stated 
that the proposed rule would have an insufficient impact on safety 
because the proposed weather minimums are equivalent to Sec.  
135.205(b) and that the visibility requirements should be doubled to 1 
statute mile during the day and 2 statute miles at night.
    The FAA has determined that the change proposed in the NPRM is 
warranted. As discussed above, the FAA has identified numerous 
accidents that may have been prevented had the changes been in place. 
In response to Westlog's comments about foggy conditions and readings 
by an AWOS, the FAA is aware that visibility at some parts of an 
airport may be sufficiently clear to conduct operations even though the 
AWOS is reporting minimum visibility. Section 91.155 establishes flight 
visibility requirements for part 91 VFR operations. Therefore, if the 
pilot

[[Page 9938]]

determines that flight visibility \3\ meets the requirements of Sec.  
91.155 at the takeoff location, despite the weather reported by the 
AWOS, the pilot may take off.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \3\ See 14 CFR 1.1.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The FAA recognizes that this change will prohibit operations that 
are currently conducted in very low visibility conditions in Class G 
airspace, including civil and public aircraft operations. However, the 
FAA has determined that the increased safety justifies any prohibitions 
that would result. Under current regulations, an operator may apply for 
a certificate of waiver from Sec.  91.155. The Administrator may issue 
a certificate of waiver if a proposed operation can be safely 
conducted. See 14 CFR 91.903-91.905. The FAA has determined that this 
existing waiver authority will provide sufficient flexibility to 
operators that can safely conduct operations when visibility is below 
the requirements established in this rule.
    In response to the comment by Safety and Flight Evaluations, 
International that the visibility requirements should be doubled, 
implementing more restrictive visibility minimums than those proposed 
would be outside of the scope of the proposed rule.
Final Rule
    Based on the comments received and an additional review of the 
NPRM, the FAA is adopting the rule as proposed with two changes. First, 
the agency has changed proposed Sec.  91.155(b)(1) to allow helicopters 
to operate clear of clouds in an airport or heliport traffic pattern 
within \1/2\ mile of the runway or helipad of intended landing if the 
flight visibility is \1/2\ statute mile or more. The agency finds that 
this revision will provide an additional measure of flexibility when 
operating at night in an airport environment similar to that afforded 
to airplanes under the current rule. Second, for consistency with the 
existing regulation, the final rule incorporates the visibility 
minimums into Sec.  91.155(a), instead of Sec.  91.155(b)(1) as 
proposed in the NPRM.

B. Load Manifest Requirement for All Aircraft Operating Under Part 135 
(Sec.  135.63)

    Currently, Sec.  135.63 requires operators of multiengine aircraft 
to complete a load manifest in duplicate and carry one copy aboard the 
aircraft. No specific action is required for the second copy, but 
certificate holders must retain a copy of the completed load manifest 
for at least 30 days. Single engine aircraft currently have no 
requirement to prepare a load manifest.
    In the NPRM, the FAA proposed to apply the rule to all airplanes 
and helicopters, single engine and multiengine, operating under part 
135, and to clarify the requirements for preparation and transmission 
of the load manifest. The proposal required that the load manifest be 
sent to the certificate holder's principal base of operations or to 
another location approved by the Administrator, where it must be 
received before takeoff. The proposal allowed for the load manifest to 
be provided electronically. It required that if the load manifest is 
not received by the certificate holder's principal base of operations 
before takeoff, the pilot must prepare two copies and carry one copy on 
the aircraft to its destination and arrange, at the takeoff location, 
for the second copy to be sent to the certificate holder or retained 
until the flight is complete at a location approved by the 
Administrator.
    The FAA estimated this provision would impose costs of $82 million 
(present value) over 10 years while the benefits were estimated at $20 
million (present value) over 10 years. The FAA requested comments on 
the cost of the load manifest provision.
    The NTSB supported this revision and commented that it responds to 
NTSB Safety Recommendation A-99-61. The Association of Air Medical 
Services (AAMS), NEMSPA, Helicopter Association International (HAI), 
and Angel One Transport supported the intent to maintain accurate load 
manifest records, but they, and many other commenters, expressed 
concerns about the cost, justification, and operational impact of this 
requirement. Commenters noted the high cost of this requirement and 
questioned how this provision would prevent accidents.
    Based on the comments received and additional review of the NPRM, 
the FAA is withdrawing the load manifest requirement proposed in the 
NRPM because of the excessive cost of this provision. Therefore, the 
current rule language in Sec.  135.63 remains unchanged.
    The FAA notes that other regulations currently in place require 
pilots to comply with the operating limitations of the aircraft and to 
be familiar with all information concerning a flight, which would 
include the type of information included on a load manifest. See 
Sec. Sec.  91.9(a) and 91.103. Additionally, the FAA will consider 
issuing guidance material in order to clarify the requirements for 
preparation and transmission of the load manifest.

C. Rules Applicable to All Part 135 Helicopter Operations

1. Radio Altimeters (Sec.  135.160)
    The FAA proposed a new requirement for all rotorcraft operated 
under part 135 to be equipped with a radio altimeter. Commenters, 
including AAMS and various ACCT members, supported this proposal. The 
NTSB supported it as well and emphasized that, if adopted, this 
proposal would respond to NTSB Safety Recommendation A-02-35.
    Other commenters, however, objected to this provision on grounds 
that radio altimeters are not effective in all situations, that the 
rule would not be cost beneficial, and that not all helicopters can 
incorporate radio altimeters. These comments are discussed in detail 
below.
Effectiveness
    PHI claimed radio altimeters have minimal impact on pilots flying 
by visual reference in daytime and that the accident record shows that 
radio altimeters have not prevented controlled-flight-into-terrain 
accidents. NorthStar Trekking, an Alaskan operator, commented that 
radio altimeters are unreliable, give erroneous information over snow-
covered surfaces, and realistically create nothing more than a 
distraction in a day VFR environment. One commenter stated that TAWS is 
a better investment because radio altimeters ``tell distance to where 
the aircraft has already been not where it's going to impact.''
    Finally, FreeFlight Systems, an avionics manufacturer, commented 
that the radio altimeter should have the ``performance guarantees of 
[Technical Standard Order] TSO-C87 and be designated in accordance with 
DO-178B and DO-254 with at least a Level C design assurance.'' It 
further stated that some radio altimeters with ``only a PMA--lacking a 
TSO'' are less accurate at low altitudes which could impact the ability 
to gauge altitude in critical conditions.
    The FAA determined that radio altimeters are an important safety 
device designed to inform the pilot of the aircraft's actual height 
above the surface. Although it is true that a radio altimeter may have 
minimal impact on daytime visual reference flight, this device gives 
pilots an additional tool to maintain situational awareness in an 
inadvertent encounter with IMC, where vision is suddenly limited due to 
brownout or whiteout, or other situations where pilots lose their 
reference to the horizon and the ground. Additionally, as stated in the 
NPRM, a radio altimeter can aid a pilot's

[[Page 9939]]

awareness of height above the ground during hover, when landing in 
unimproved landing zones, or where a more vertical approach is 
required. All of these scenarios can occur during the day.
    In response to the comments that a radio altimeter may not prevent 
a controlled-flight-into-terrain accident, as discussed in the NPRM, 
NTSB safety recommendation A-02-35 noted that radio altimeters might 
aid pilots in recognizing proximity to the ground in flat-light and 
whiteout conditions. Additionally, the FAA cites 29 accidents in the 
final regulatory evaluation that may have been prevented by a radio 
altimeter. Of the 29 accidents, 19 were classified as controlled flight 
into terrain by the NTSB. A radio altimeter could have provided the 
pilot with a low altitude warning, enabling the pilot to take 
corrective action.
    In response to NorthStar Trekking, the FAA acknowledges that, in 
limited circumstances, such as when operating over dry snow or still 
water, a radio altimeter may provide inaccurate altitude readings. 
Improper installation of a radio altimeter may exacerbate this problem. 
The FAA has determined that these infrequent inaccurate readings do not 
outweigh the safety benefits that will be obtained by requiring 
installation of radio altimeters in the commercial helicopter fleet.
    In response to the comment that this device only tells where the 
aircraft has been, meaning that it cannot detect obstacles in the 
flight path, a descending altitude read-out on the radio altimeter 
could alert a pilot to rising terrain or decreasing altitude over level 
terrain. Accordingly, although the radio altimeter does not reveal 
obstacles in the flight path, it does provide valuable information to 
maintain situational awareness. The FAA agrees with the commenter that 
TAWS or HTAWS are valuable tools, but is not going to extend the 
requirement to equip with one of these devices to the entire part 135 
helicopter population at this time. Rather, as discussed later in this 
document and in the NPRM, the FAA is requiring HTAWS for helicopter air 
ambulance operations because they are often conducted at night and into 
unimproved landing sites.
    Finally, the FAA is not requiring a radio altimeter that meets 
Technical Standard Order TSO-C87. The FAA determined that an FAA-
approved radio altimeter is sufficient because the intended function is 
demonstrated regardless of the type of FAA approval. A radio altimeter 
may be approved in one of four ways: Under a Parts Manufacturer 
Approval; under a TSO authorization; in conjunction with type 
certification procedures for a product; or approved in any other manner 
by the Administrator. See 14 CFR 21.303. The minimum performance of a 
TSO or a parts-manufacturer-approved radio altimeter must be 
demonstrated to meet the intended function.
Cost
    NorthStar Trekking commented that contrary to the FAA's assertion 
that the cost of radio altimeters is negligible, an altimeter costs 
roughly $6,000, with an additional $500 in maintenance annually--money 
that could be better spent on training, early retirement of parts, 
extra pilots, and appropriate avionics that ``truly have an effect on 
our overall safety. . . .'' It further stated that the accident cited 
in the NPRM would not have been prevented by a radio altimeter. It 
noted that the accident may have been far worse had a radio altimeter 
been installed on the helicopter because of snow and fog, and had the 
pilot tried to maintain a higher altitude by use of a radio altimeter 
he may have flown into IMC conditions.
    Westlog claimed that requiring a non-air ambulance operator to have 
a radio altimeter installed is simply too onerous with very little 
documented benefit. Westlog based this comment on its review of NTSB 
accident data for the non-air ambulance part 135 helicopter industry. 
It noted that the only non-air ambulance accident cited in the NPRM 
occurred in Alaska and maintained that a radio altimeter requirement is 
not justified for all geographic locations. In response to Westlog's 
comment, the FAA notes that it identified 11 non-air ambulance 
commercial helicopter accidents in the final Regulatory Evaluation that 
might have been prevented if an operational radio altimeter had been 
installed in the aircraft. These accidents were also cited in the 
initial Regulatory Evaluation published in the docket with the NPRM.
    With respect to the comment on the cost of a radio altimeter, in 
the initial regulatory evaluation, the FAA estimated the cost of a 
radio altimeter to be $5,250 (including installation), plus revenue 
losses for downtime during installation. For the final regulatory 
evaluation, the FAA revised this cost estimate to a $9,000 cost for the 
device, which was the highest estimate given by commenters, plus $500 
annually for maintenance.
Need for Flexibility
    Westlog and Air Shasta expressed concern that their helicopters 
cannot accommodate additional equipment. Both commenters said that if 
they are forced to install a radio altimeter, they would have to remove 
vital equipment, such as the artificial horizon, because there is no 
room to fit anything more on the instrument panel. Several commenters, 
including REACH, supported the rule, provided they were able to 
continue operation without a radio altimeter within a limited period 
and with acceptable alternative procedures as prescribed under minimum 
equipment lists (MELs).
    The final rule states that an operator must have an ``FAA-approved 
radio altimeter, or an FAA-approved device that incorporates a radio 
alti- meter. . . .'' The FAA recognizes that limited numbers of older 
helicopters used in part 135 operations (e.g. Bell-47, Robinson R-22) 
may not have adequate room on the flight deck to install a radio 
altimeter. In response to these comments, the FAA is including the 
ability for a certificate holder to obtain a deviation from the rule 
for circumstances when a radio altimeter cannot physically be located 
on the flight deck. However, we also note that an HTAWS or other device 
such as a multi-function display that incorporates a radio altimeter 
would be permitted under this rule. Deviation authority may not be 
warranted for helicopters in which a radio altimeter can be 
incorporated into the flight deck's existing configuration. 
Additionally, the operator may not use information derived from a 
global positioning system (GPS) as a substitute for a radio altimeter.
    Finally, the FAA notes that the rule language proposed in the NPRM 
exempting operators from the radio altimeter requirement when 
``authorized in the certificate holder's approved'' MEL is adopted in 
the final rule. The particular requirements relating to operations with 
inoperable radio altimeters would be developed by FAA's Flight 
Standards Service in accordance with its existing master minimum 
equipment list (MMEL) process.
Compliance Date
    The FAA asked for comments on the proposed 3-year compliance period 
for the radio altimeter provision. The NTSB responded that the 
compliance period for this requirement should be reduced to 1 year 
because radio altimeters are readily available for helicopter 
installation. FreeFlight Systems encouraged adoption as soon as 
possible, but commented that a 3-year time frame ``seems reasonable 
since affordable, light-weight equipment is already available.'' The 
FAA also notes

[[Page 9940]]

comments discussed above regarding concerns about the time it takes to 
obtain FAA approval for equipment installations.
    The FAA is implementing the 3-year compliance period proposed in 
the NPRM. We have determined, based on the comments, that part 135 
helicopter operators will be able to comply with the rule in that time 
period. The FAA also does not anticipate undue delay in approving radio 
altimeter installations because they are readily available on the 
market and installation procedures are well established.
Requirement for Helicopter Air Ambulances To Be Equipped With Radio 
Altimeters and HTAWS
    The FAA proposed that helicopters used in air ambulance operations 
be equipped with both a radio altimeter and an HTAWS unit and asked for 
comments on the safety benefits of installing both devices. The FAA is 
requiring in the final rule that helicopter air ambulances be equipped 
with both a radio altimeter and HTAWS. Aviation Solutions Group, LLC, a 
member of ACCT, agreed with the proposal to require both technologies 
to ``provide optimal situational awareness.'' This comment was echoed 
by other ACCT members. LifeFlight of Maine commented that use of a 
radio altimeter and HTAWS provides multiple sources of low-altitude 
warnings to pilots.
    We reiterate the statements in the NPRM that an HTAWS that 
incorporates or works in conjunction with a radio altimeter function 
would meet the requirements of Sec.  135.160 because those units 
measure altitude by actively sending radio signals to the surface. They 
do not rely on a preprogrammed database to derive altitude information. 
Therefore an HTAWS without a radio altimeter function would not meet 
the requirements of Sec.  135.160.
    The rule is adopted as proposed.\4\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \4\ Section 306(c)(3) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 
2012 (Pub. L. 112-95) requires the FAA to conduct a rulemaking that 
addresses use of radio altimeters in helicopter air ambulance 
operations.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

2. Safety Equipment for Overwater Operations (Sec. Sec.  1.1, 135.117, 
135.167, and 135.168)
    Currently, aircraft operating in extended overwater operations must 
comply with the equipment requirements in Sec.  135.167. Current Sec.  
1.1 defines extended overwater operations for helicopters as an 
operation at a horizontal distance of more than 50 nautical miles (NM) 
from the nearest shoreline and 50 NM from an off-shore heliport 
structure. Additionally, operators must comply with overwater equipment 
requirements in Sec.  91.205(b)(12) and performance requirements for 
aircraft in Sec.  135.183 when conducting overwater operations.
    In the NPRM, the requirements for helicopter overwater operations 
were contained in a new section, Sec.  135.168. Additionally, the NPRM 
proposed removing the reference to off-shore heliports from Sec.  1.1 
to define extended overwater operations as operations more than 50 NM 
from the nearest shoreline. The FAA proposed to amend Sec.  135.167 to 
exclude rotorcraft. The FAA received comments on the framework of the 
proposed rule and the equipment requirements. Based on these comments 
and further review of the NPRM, the FAA has made significant revisions 
to this rule.
    Primarily, the FAA has removed the requirement for helicopters to 
equip with life rafts when beyond autorotational distance from the 
shoreline. The FAA is removing the life raft requirement proposed in 
the NPRM because the cost of equipping with life rafts would not be 
justified by an increase in the survivability of accidents. The FAA 
reviewed accidents to ascertain the cost and benefit of each piece of 
equipment proposed in the NPRM and determined that benefits from the 
accidents cited in the NPRM do not justify the costs of imposing the 
life raft requirement. This is for two reasons. First, there are 
relatively few accidents beyond autorotational distance from the 
shoreline. Second, among the accidents identified, few qualify as 
survivable and, of the survivable accidents, the requirement to wear 
life preservers would generate the greatest likelihood of surviving in 
the water. Accordingly, the proposed life raft requirement is not being 
implemented in the final rule.
    The FAA is also not implementing the proposed revision to the 
definition of ``extended over-water operation'' in Sec.  1.1. That 
definition would have been revised so that the equipment requirements 
for extended over-water operations would take effect at the same 
distance from shore for helicopters and airplanes. Currently, 
helicopters are allowed more flexibility. However, we are withdrawing 
this revision because it was tied to the life raft proposal.
    Additionally, the final rule does not adopt the changes proposed to 
Sec.  135.167 which would have made that section applicable only to 
airplanes. The removal of the proposed life raft requirement makes it 
necessary to leave Sec.  135.167 as it is so that the existing equipage 
rules, which include a life raft requirement, apply to helicopters 
engaged in extended overwater operations.
    Nevertheless, as discussed below, the FAA is retaining the 
requirements that life preservers be worn when the aircraft is operated 
beyond autorotational distance from the shoreline and for helicopters 
to be equipped with a 406 MHz ELT. The FAA believes it is important to 
provide passengers with this base level of equipment to increase the 
odds of surviving a crash into the water. As discussed above, when 
conducting the accident analysis, the FAA reviewed each piece of 
equipment proposed in this provision and found that, of the proposed 
equipment, life preservers would generate the most benefits.
    The FAA is not adopting the proposed pyrotechnic signaling device 
requirement because Sec.  91.205(b)(12) currently requires aircraft 
operated overwater to be equipped with ``at least one pyrotechnic 
signaling device.''
406 MHz Emergency Locator Transmitters
    This final rule requires that each helicopter have an approved 
emergency locator transmitter (ELT)--ELT 406/121.5MHz. The NPRM 
proposed a TSO-C126a approved 406 MHz ELT that only needed to be 
carried on the rafts. The final rule language has been changed to 
require that single and multiengine helicopters, not the raft, be 
equipped with an ELT. This will ensure that all helicopters that 
conduct operations beyond autorotational distance from the shoreline 
will have the added safety benefit of a rescue locating and signaling 
device. This final rule requires an ELT that transmits on the 406 MHz 
frequency but also includes a low-power 121.5 MHz homing device. The 
121.5 MHz frequency remains allocated to aviation emergencies and 
continues to be monitored by air traffic control, flight service 
stations, other emergency organizations, and aircraft. We also note 
that since publication of the NPRM the FAA published TSO-C126b, dated 
November 26, 2012, which does not allow using hook and loop fasteners 
to secure the ELT in the aircraft.
    Operators required to comply with this rule can find ELT minimum 
performance standards in FAA TSO-C126b ``406 MHz Emergency Locator 
Transmitter,'' dated November 26, 2012. The FAA notes that the prior 
versions of the TSO, TSO-C126a dated December 17, 2008, and TSO-C126 
December 23, 1992, provide minimum performance specifications for 406 
and 121.5 MHz ELTs that are similar to those found in TSO-C126b. FAA 
TSO-C126 refers to RTCA DO-204 ``Minimum Operational

[[Page 9941]]

Performance Standards for 406 MHz Emergency Locator Transmitters,'' 
dated December 23, 1992, and FAA TSO-C126b and TSO-C126a refer to RTCA 
DO-204a ``Minimum Operational Performance Standards for 406 MHz 
Emergency Locator Transmitters,'' dated December 6, 2007. Accordingly, 
the FAA has changed the rule language to allow TSO-C126, TSO-C126a, and 
TSO-C126b approved ELTs.
    RTCA DO-204 and DO-204a include minimum performance standards for 
both 406 and 121.5 MHz ELTs. When beneficial to the operator, the FAA 
will consider approving installations of a stand-alone 406 MHz ELT to 
augment an existing 121.5 MHz ELT installation.
Life Preservers
    In the NPRM, the FAA proposed to include a requirement in Sec.  
135.168 that occupants in overwater operations wear life preservers 
equipped with a survivor locator light from takeoff until the flight is 
no longer over water.
    PHI asked the FAA to strike the words ``from takeoff until the 
flight is no longer over water'' from the overwater life preserver 
requirement of Sec.  135.168 and replace them with ``during the 
overwater portion of the flight.'' AMOA asserted that the rule should 
not require passengers to wear life preservers, but rather the life 
preservers should ``be easily accessible'' during overwater operations. 
Med-Trans proposed a change that would exempt the patients on board 
medical helicopters from life preserver and briefing requirements.
    Many commenters recommended that the FAA exclude patients from life 
preserver requirements because wearing a life preserver could interfere 
with the patient's medical care. These comments mirrored a part 125/135 
ARC recommendation. The FAA did not intend to require transported 
patients to wear life preservers if doing so would impede the ability 
of medical personnel to treat that patient or if it would be 
inadvisable for medical reasons, such as a need to keep the patient 
still. Accordingly the FAA has revised Sec.  135.168(b)(1) to reflect 
this intent.
    The FAA agrees with commenters that passengers should be able to 
don life preservers only for the overwater portion of the flight. After 
reviewing the proposal, the FAA recognizes that a flight may spend 
significant time over land before it travels over water. The FAA has 
amended the final rule to require that occupants wear life preservers 
while the helicopter is beyond autorotational distance from the 
shoreline.
Applicability
    As proposed in the NPRM and adopted in this final rule, Sec.  
135.168 contains an operational solution that addresses commenters' 
concerns about flights that only cross narrow bodies of inland water or 
bays. A helicopter does not need to be equipped with a 406 MHz ELT and 
life preservers if it crosses the water at an altitude within 
autorotational glide distance of the shore. Autorotational distance 
refers to the forward distance a helicopter can glide without engine 
power. During autorotation the rotors continue turning because of the 
air moving through the rotor as the helicopter loses altitude. Thus, an 
operator can avoid the need for the additional safety equipment by 
flying close to the shoreline or at a higher altitude. For example, for 
a helicopter that has a glide ratio of 3 feet forward to 1 foot of 
descent, a pilot flying at an altitude of 1,000 feet would be able to 
operate at least \1/2\ mile from a shoreline without needing overwater 
equipment. This provides flexibility for operators that fly over narrow 
bodies of water while still providing the additional level of safety 
for overwater and extended overwater operations. This standard is 
consistent with current requirements under Sec.  135.183.
Final Rule
    Based on the comments received and additional review of the NPRM, 
the FAA has adopted Sec.  135.168 with revisions. The most significant 
changes are to the requirements for helicopter overwater operations in 
Sec.  135.168. The FAA has not adopted the proposed requirements for 
life-rafts and pyrotechnic signaling devices or the proposed changes to 
the definition of extended overwater operations in Sec.  1.1. The 
proposed amendment to Sec.  135.167 is not adopted.
    The final rule requires helicopters to be equipped with a 406 MHz 
ELT and occupants to wear life preservers on helicopter flights 
operated beyond autorotational distance from shoreline.
    The FAA also notes that passenger briefing requirements proposed in 
the NPRM as Sec.  135.168(d) have been moved to Sec.  135.117, Briefing 
of passengers before flight. No substantive changes were made to the 
briefing requirements.
    These changes will take effect 3 years after this rule's 
publication.
3. Pilot Testing for Recovery From IIMC, Whiteout, Brownout, and Flat-
Light Conditions (Sec.  135.293)
    The FAA proposed adding new requirements to Sec.  135.293 to 
require helicopter pilots to demonstrate recovery from an IIMC on an 
annual basis and to understand procedures for aircraft handling in 
flat-light, whiteout, and brownout conditions. Twelve commenters, 
including AAMS, Air Methods Corporation (Air Methods), AMOA, REACH, and 
the NTSB supported the proposed change. Twenty-one commenters, 
including PHI, did not agree with the proposal as written.
    Some commenters stated that the testing requirements should be 
tailored to the certificate holder's operating environment. NorthStar 
Trekking, an Alaskan operator, noted that it trains its pilots for 
flat-light and whiteout conditions, but not for brownout conditions. 
Jack Harter Helicopters stated that because it does not operate in 
areas where whiteout or brownout are likely, it should not be required 
to include those conditions in its training program. PHI stated that a 
majority of its operations rarely encounter flat-light or whiteout 
conditions, and mandating training for those conditions for all 
operators would be an onerous requirement.
    PHI also stated that this regulation would be redundant with Sec.  
135.329(e)(1), which requires training specific to a certificate 
holder's type of operation. The NTSB commented that the FAA should 
require operators to incorporate safe practices for operations in flat-
light and whiteout conditions in their training programs.
    LifeFlight of Maine and other ACCT members commented that the IIMC 
recovery training should be demonstrated semi-annually. Several 
individual commenters recommended quarterly training for pilots to 
maintain proficiency.
    AAMS, AMOA, and Air EVAC EMS commented that pilots should be able 
to use simulators and flight training devices to complete this 
training. The NTSB also supported increased use of simulators for 
helicopter pilot training.
    The FAA finds that helicopter pilots would benefit from annual 
testing on all three conditions--whiteout, flat light, and brownout. 
Although some conditions may be more prevalent in certain areas, such 
as whiteout conditions in Alaska or brownout conditions in desert 
environments, these conditions may occur year-round in many places. 
This testing will help ensure that pilots have a base-level knowledge 
should they encounter these conditions. To clarify, the rule requires 
that pilots, on the annual written or oral test required by Sec.  
135.293(a), demonstrate knowledge of procedures for aircraft handling 
in flat-light, whiteout, and brownout conditions, and

[[Page 9942]]

methods for recognizing and avoiding these conditions. They would be 
required to demonstrate a realistic course of action to escape IIMC 
during the Sec.  135.293(b) competency check. As discussed in the NPRM, 
the FAA intends for this demonstration to be appropriate to the 
aircraft, equipment, and facilities available to the pilot during the 
competency check. The FAA finds that an annual check is sufficient 
because it can be incorporated into a certificate holder's existing 
competency check schedule.
    This new requirement does not duplicate the crewmember training 
requirements of Sec.  135.329(e)(1). That section requires, in part, 
crewmember training, instruction, and practice to ensure that each 
crewmember remains adequately trained and proficient for each type of 
operation in which that crewmember serves. While operators may include 
training on flat-light, whiteout, brownout, and IIMC recovery in 
training programs, this rule's amendments ensure that these topics will 
be tested during a pilot's annual competency check. The FAA anticipates 
that such training will be incorporated into training programs so that 
pilots will be adequately prepared for their annual competency checks.
    We note that the IMC recovery portion of the competency check could 
be performed in a simulator or flight training device, provided that it 
is consistent with that device's specific approval.
Final Rule
    This rule is adopted as proposed and will take effect 60 days after 
publication of the final rule.\5\ Section 135.293 requires individuals 
to complete testing in the 12 calendar months prior to serving as a 
pilot in part 135 operation. The FAA does not intend for pilots to be 
retested before the new testing requirements take effect. Rather, 
pilots must comply with the new requirement during their next Sec.  
135.293 test.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \5\ Section 306(c)(2) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 
2012 (Pub. L. 112-95) requires the FAA to conduct a rulemaking that 
addresses pilot training standards in preventing controlled flight 
into terrain and recovery from IIMC.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

4. IFR Alternate Airport Weather Minimums (Sec.  135.221)
    Current rules, as provided for in Sec.  135.221, require that to 
designate an alternate airport for an IFR operation, weather reports or 
forecasts for that airport must be at or above the alternate airport 
landing minimums for that airport at the estimated time of arrival. In 
the NPRM, the FAA proposed to require a more stringent alternate 
airport weather requirement for rotorcraft, based on minimums 
established in Operations Specification (OpSpec) H105. Several 
commenters, including the NTSB, ACCT members, PHI, and AAMS supported 
the proposed change.
    Kestrel Air commented that the FAA proposed this requirement 
without establishing a connection between existing standards and 
accidents involving part 135 helicopter operators and that there is no 
accident history to support this proposal.
    Safety and Flight Evaluations, International agreed that increased 
weather minimums would increase the likelihood of being able to land at 
the alternate if weather deteriorates. However, it also stated that 
because it is often more difficult for a helicopter to fly out of a 
weather system to an alternate airport, as noted in the NPRM, that 
``there is little likelihood that an alternate airfield exists that 
would have significantly different weather conditions than at the 
primary airfield.'' Accordingly, Safety and Flight Evaluations, 
International stated that the rule would discourage pilots from flying 
IFR.
    Kestrel Air is correct that the FAA did not cite any accidents to 
support this proposal. However, as noted in the NPRM, this proposal is 
based on OpSpec H105, which is issued to all part 135 helicopter 
operators that conduct IFR operations. Accordingly, this rule change 
will not require operational changes for these certificate holders, so 
no additional costs will be incurred. OpSpec H105 has established these 
minimums and the FAA does not anticipate a change in IFR usage.
    This rule is adopted as proposed.

D. Rules Applicable to Helicopter Air Ambulance Operations

    This final rule establishes several new requirements for 
certificate holders conducting helicopter air ambulance operations. It 
changes the applicability section of part 135 (Sec.  135.1) to require 
some operations that have been conducted under part 91 to be conducted 
under part 135. Additionally, this rule establishes new equipment, 
operations, and training rules for certificate holders conducting air 
ambulance operations which are codified in new subpart L, Sec. Sec.  
135.601-135.621.
1. Applicability of Part 135 Rules to Helicopter Air Ambulance 
Operations (Sec. Sec.  135.1, 135.267, 135.271, 135.601)
    The FAA proposed requiring that all helicopter air ambulance 
operations with medical personnel on board be conducted under part 135 
operating rules. Flights to pick up a patient, the patient transport 
leg, and the flight returning to base after the patient is dropped off, 
or other flights with a patient or medical personnel on board would be 
conducted under part 135. The FAA received many comments from 
organizations and individuals supporting and opposing this proposal. 
Comments addressed the FAA's accident analysis which formed the basis 
of the regulatory evaluation; whether part 135 is the appropriate part 
of the regulations for this change and whether repositioning flights 
should continue to be operated under part 91; potential limitations on 
operations; flight and duty questions; and how the FAA defined flights 
to be conducted under part 135. These comments are addressed in detail 
below.
Definition of Medical Personnel
    The NPRM defined ``medical personnel'' as ``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.'' With this rule, any flights for medical transportation that 
carry a patient or medical personnel must now be conducted under part 
135 rules.
    NEMSPA suggested a change in the definition of medical personnel to 
``medical personnel means persons approved by State or Federal EMS 
regulations who are carried aboard a helicopter during helicopter air 
ambulance operations in order to provide onboard medical care.'' AMOA 
requested a change in the proposed definition of medical personnel to 
``persons who are carried aboard a helicopter during helicopter air 
ambulance operations in order to provide onboard medical care'' because 
the rule would limit the types of medical professionals often 
transported and could confuse the rule.
    The FAA clarifies that this definition is intended to be applied 
broadly to individuals who might be carried aboard to provide care. 
Requiring medical personnel to be approved under State or Federal EMS 
regulations may result in preventing people currently performing these 
functions from performing them any longer, because they may be licensed 
medical professionals but not certified under state or federal EMS 
regulation. For example, a nurse might be certified to practice by the 
State board of nursing, but not under a State's EMS regulations. 
Limiting the definition to this certification could also have the

[[Page 9943]]

unintentional result of allowing operators to use medical caregivers 
who are not specifically certified under State or Federal EMS 
regulations. As a result, these individuals would not be included in 
the definition and thus the operator could avoid the part 135 
requirements.
    Additionally, we note that the definition of medical personnel 
proposed in the NPRM referenced ``persons with medical training, 
including but not limited to a flight physician, a flight nurse, or a 
flight paramedic. . . .'' (See 75 FR 62621) (emphasis added). 
Accordingly, the definition does not apply to those persons only. Any 
person with medical training who is ``carried aboard a helicopter 
during helicopter air ambulance operations in order to provide medical 
care'' would fall into the definition of medical personnel. The FAA 
notes that it made a non-substantive change to the definition of 
``medical personnel'' to clarify that the definition could apply to a 
single person as well as to a group.
Accident Analysis
    AMOA and PHI contended that the FAA's accident analysis used to 
justify placing more operations under part 135 was flawed because it 
categorized flights as occurring under part 91 when, in fact, many were 
conducted under part 135 rules. Both organizations cited a 1992 
memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the NTSB and the FAA that 
established how air ambulance accidents would be categorized. Pursuant 
to the MOU, the NTSB categorized accidents involving air medical 
flights without a patient on board as part 91 accidents. These 
commenters maintained that many of the accidents categorized as 
occurring under part 91 actually happened when the helicopter was 
operating under part 135 rules even though no patient was on board. HAI 
commented that its members that conduct air medical operations 
``currently operate to the requirements of OpSpec A021, which are 
higher than current part 135 weather minimums, on any leg of a patient 
transport flight whenever medical personnel are on board. . . .''
    The NTSB noted in its comment that, as detailed in its Special 
Investigation Report on Emergency Medical Services Operations, 32 of 
the 41 helicopter air ambulance accidents investigated by the NTSB 
occurred while the aircraft was operating under the flight rules 
specified in part 91.
    The FAA acknowledges that the commenters correctly described the 
way accidents are categorized under the MOU. In light of the 
information received from the commenters, the FAA reviewed the 
accidents cited in the NPRM to determine whether the accidents 
categorized as part 91 accidents were properly used to justify changes 
to the rule. The NPRM categorized 33 accidents (out of the 135 
helicopter air ambulance accidents cited) as occurring during part 91 
operations which were given as support for including those operations 
in part 135.
    The FAA determined that 17 of those 33 accidents occurred while the 
helicopters were flying in weather minimums below those proposed and 
that will be required under Sec.  135.609, accounting for 42 deaths. 
Although some operations were conducted under part 135, these flights 
were operated below the weather minimums for helicopter air ambulance 
operations proposed in the NPRM. Therefore, the accidents may have been 
prevented had these helicopters been operating under the stricter rules 
adopted here and are properly included in justifying this rule.\6\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \6\ The remaining sixteen accidents originally identified as 
part 91 operations were flying above the weather minimums 
established in this rule and are therefore no longer being used to 
support Sec.  135.609. However, 10 of these accidents were cited in 
the NPRM in support of other proposed rule provisions. The FAA finds 
that these accidents are still applicable to those provisions. Six 
accidents were removed from the final rule's accident analysis. See 
the Final Regulatory Evaluation for a full explanation of the 
accident analysis, and methodology used to review the accidents.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Relationship Between Parts 91 and 135
    AMOA, Air Evac EMS Inc. (Air Evac EMS), AAMS, NEMSPA, and PHI were 
among commenters that said that applying part 135 regulations to 
operations traditionally considered to be under part 91 is inconsistent 
with the current regulatory framework and could introduce confusion. 
Instead, these commenters said changes to enhance safety requirements 
for these operations should be made by amending part 91, not part 135. 
This would ensure the continuity and applicability of the current 
rules.
    The NTSB supported the proposal and stated that it would likely 
meet the intent of Safety Recommendation A-06-12. However, it also 
stated that the list of flights conducted under part 135 must be as 
complete as possible and should include maintenance flights, training 
flights, helicopter positioning flights performed without medical 
crewmembers on board, and other operations that would not be required 
to be conducted under part 135 under this rule.
    The commenters are correct that, as discussed in the NPRM, 
currently non-patient-carrying legs of helicopter air ambulance 
operations may be conducted under part 91. The FAA, through this rule, 
is requiring legs with medical personnel onboard to be conducted under 
part 135. The primary reason for this change is to protect medical 
personnel by ensuring that those flights are conducted under the more 
stringent operating rules of part 135. As noted by the NTSB, medical 
personnel ``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.'' Accordingly, the FAA 
determined that medical personnel deserve the same safety protections 
that part 135 provides to patients on helicopter air ambulance flights.
    Additionally, the FAA is not changing the rule language to provide 
a more extensive list of flights that must be conducted under part 135. 
As discussed above, the rule is clear that if medical personnel or a 
patient are on board the aircraft and the flight is conducted for 
medical transportation, then it must be conducted under part 135. The 
non-exclusive list is intended to emphasize that the traditional three-
legged helicopter air ambulance flight (base to pick-up site, pick-up 
site to drop-off site, drop-off site to base) must now be conducted 
under part 135.
    Further, the FAA does not anticipate that the placement of these 
rules in part 135 rather than in part 91 will cause confusion for 
certificate holders. It is clear that these rules only apply to part 
119 certificate holders authorized to conduct helicopter air ambulance 
operations under part 135. Part 135 is a logical place for the 
regulations affecting this population.
    The FAA received several comments about this rule's impact on 
helicopter air ambulance operations. First, AMOA, Air Evac EMS, AAMS, 
NEMSPA, and PHI commented on the need for flexibility from the part 135 
requirements during the repositioning leg for training purposes. They 
have traditionally used this leg for training newly hired second pilots 
on instrument approach procedures and stated that they cannot do the 
same kind of training when operating under part 135 rules as they can 
when operating under part 91 rules because the pilot in training would 
not be able to manipulate the controls. Commenters were concerned this 
proposal could significantly inhibit IFR operations by helicopter air 
ambulance operators. Second, HAI commented that a

[[Page 9944]]

requirement to conduct helicopter air ambulance operations under part 
135 would prevent operators from using GPS approaches certified for 
part 91 operations.
    The FAA has determined that applying part 135 rules will have only 
a limited effect on training. Operators may continue training pilots on 
instrument approaches during flights with no passengers, medical 
personnel, or patients on board. The FAA has determined that the safety 
benefits of this rule outweigh the fact that certificate holders may 
need to conduct additional training flights.
    The FAA finds HAI's concern about limitations on GPS approaches to 
be unwarranted. All instrument approaches are designed and certified to 
part 97 Terminal Instrument Procedures (TERPS) requirements. Use of 
these approaches is not restricted to flights conducted under certain 
operating rules. They can be used by an operator conducting flights 
under part 91, 121, or 135.
    The NTSB also stated that although part 91 may provide additional 
``operational flexibilities due to decreased visual flight rules (VFR) 
weather minimums and no flight crew rest requirements'' it believes 
that these benefits ``are greatly overshadowed by the increased risk 
that such operations have historically posed.''
    Additionally, the FAA acknowledges that certificate holders may not 
be able to conduct certain operations because of the more stringent 
part 135 requirements. For example, the weather minimums may be below 
part 135 standards, but would have been acceptable for a part 91 
operation. Similarly, additional part 135 flights may mean that a 
flightcrew member reaches flight time limitations more quickly. 
Nevertheless, the FAA has determined that these restrictions are 
appropriate given the increased safety of operations that are expected 
as a result of this regulation. However, the FAA is not extending this 
regulation to flights conducted without medical personnel onboard. The 
FAA has determined that such an extension would go beyond the stated 
rationale of providing additional protections to the medical personnel 
and passengers onboard the helicopter.
    Air Methods commented that operators should follow the weather 
minimums specified in A021, which are more stringent than the baseline 
part 135 weather minimums. The FAA agrees and, as discussed later, is 
adopting those weather minimums into part 135 regulations applicable to 
helicopter air ambulance operations.
Flight and Duty Time Limitations (Proposed Sec. Sec.  135.267 and 
135.271)
    As discussed in the NPRM, one impact of requiring flights 
traditionally conducted under part 91 to be conducted under part 135 is 
that these flights will now count toward a pilot's flight time 
limitations. In the NPRM, the FAA proposed adding language to 
Sec. Sec.  135.267 and 135.271 to clarify that helicopter air ambulance 
operations conducted under part 135 must be included in a pilot's 
flight time.
    Members of ACCT support including pilot duty time limitations in 
the change to require more helicopter air ambulance flights to be 
conducted under part 135. The Advanced Life Support and Emergency 
Response Team agreed with requiring flight time for a part 135 
operation when medical personnel are on board to count toward a pilot's 
daily flight time limitations and stated it already operates under this 
policy.
    PHI, AMOA, and Air Evac EMS commented that the current flight time 
and duty limitations in Sec.  135.267 should not be altered. PHI 
believes the proposal is inconsistent with FAA regulatory structure and 
discriminates against the helicopter air ambulance industry without 
justification. AMOA does not agree with adoption of Sec.  135.267(g).
    PHI also commented that there currently are no part 135 regulations 
that prevent a pilot from flying while fatigued. The commenter said 
that the pertinent regulation resides in part 91, part 135 operators 
must comply with part 91, and that current rest and duty requirements 
do not guarantee that a pilot will not be fatigued, even if complying 
with the regulations. Air Evac EMS commented that Sec. Sec.  91.13 and 
135.69(a) afford sufficient protection and claimed that the best 
measure against pilot fatigue is the pilot knowing when to decline a 
flight request and appropriate oversight.
    AMOA and Air Methods claimed that no accidents as a result of crew 
rest issues were cited to support this proposal and its change is a 
profound shift in the agency's regulatory structure that would cause 
pilots to rush to stay within the prescribed duty period. PHI and AMOA 
recommended retaining the current requirements until the FAA has 
reviewed all part 135 pilot rest requirements.
    PHI and numerous other commenters requested flexibility for pilot 
rest requirements under circumstances beyond the control of the pilot 
or operator.
    The FAA did not propose any substantive changes to Sec. Sec.  
135.267 and 135.271 flight time and rest requirements but instead added 
language to those sections to clarify ``flight time'' as a term that 
includes any helicopter air ambulance operation as defined in Sec.  
135.601. As established by this rule, all helicopter air ambulance 
operations with medical personnel or patients on board must be 
conducted under part 135. The provisions of Sec. Sec.  135.267 and 
135.271 would therefore apply to the helicopter air ambulance 
operations previously conducted under part 91.
    In the final rule, the FAA did not add the proposed references to 
helicopter air ambulance operations in Sec. Sec.  135.267 and 135.271 
because they are redundant with the amendments to Sec.  135.1. Any 
operation that must be completed under part 135 must comply with the 
applicable flight and duty time limitations of part 135, and this 
action does not eliminate this requirement. As commenters noted, 
Sec. Sec.  91.13 and 135.69 provide some safeguards, but the FAA has 
determined that the flight time limitations and rest requirements of 
part 135, subpart F, are the rules to follow to prevent pilot fatigue.
    The FAA also notes that it received several comments about whether 
circumstances beyond the control of the certificate holder would permit 
exceeding the flight time limitations in Sec.  135.267. The FAA 
believes that these comments mirror those submitted to the FAA in 
response to a draft legal interpretation published for comment that 
addresses this issue. See Docket No. FAA-2010-1259 (Dec. 23, 2010). The 
FAA advises commenters that it issued a withdrawal of the referenced 
interpretation in the same docket on November 7, 2013 (79 FR 66865) and 
is not taking any action in this rule. To do so would be outside the 
scope of the rule because the issue presented in the draft legal 
interpretation is one that was not addressed in the NPRM.
Final Rule
    Upon review of the NPRM, the FAA made changes to the rule text in 
Sec. Sec.  135.1 and 135.601. The FAA did not adopt the proposed 
changes to Sec. Sec.  135.267 and 135.271. The applicability statement 
in Sec.  135.1 was revised for clarity. In Sec.  135.601, the FAA 
removed the definition of helicopter air ambulance because it was 
unnecessary and revised the definitions of helicopter air ambulance 
operation and medical personnel for clarity. All of these changes are 
non-substantive.\7\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \7\ Section 306(a) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 
2012 (Pub. L. 112-95) requires helicopter air ambulance operations 
to comply with part 135 weather minimums and flight and duty time 
rules whenever medical personnel are onboard the aircraft.

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

[[Page 9945]]

2. Weather Minimums (Sec.  135.609--Proposed Sec.  135.607)
    Currently, part 135 regulations require 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. In the NPRM, the FAA proposed to add more 
stringent weather minimums for helicopter air ambulance operations. As 
stated in the NPRM, this rule codifies the weather requirements of 
OpSpec A021. See Table 4 below. The proposed weather minimums for 
uncontrolled airspace are determined by whether the helicopter is 
flying 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. The NPRM 
defined a local flying area as 50 NM in any direction from an 
operator's base of operation. A cross-country flying area is an area 
other than a local flying area. Weather minimums are less stringent in 
local flying areas because of pilots' increased familiarity with 
obstacles and the operating environment. Based on the NPRM, in all 
flying areas, helicopter pilots using an FAA-approved night vision 
imaging system or FAA-approved HTAWS can fly in lower weather minimums 
during night operations because those systems provide benefits for 
avoidance of obstacles and controlled flight into terrain avoidance.

                                                 Table 4--VFR Ceiling and Flight Visibility Requirements
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                   Day                                    Night                    Night using an approved NVIS or HTAWS
            Location             -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                        Ceiling        Flight visibility        Ceiling        Flight visibility        Ceiling        Flight visibility
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Nonmountainous local flying       800-feet..........  2 statute miles...  1,000-feet........  3 statute miles...  800-feet..........  3 statute miles.
 areas.
Nonmountainous non-local flying   800-feet..........  3 statute miles...  1,000-feet........  5 statute miles...  1,000-feet........  3 statute miles.
 areas.
Mountainous local flying areas..  800-feet..........  3 statute miles...  1,500-feet........  3 statute miles...  1,000-feet........  3 statute miles.
Mountainous non-local flying      1,000-feet........  3 statute miles...  1,500-feet........  5 statute miles...  1,000-feet........  5 statute miles.
 areas.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The FAA received support for this provision from several 
commenters. The NTSB supports codifying the more stringent weather 
minimums of OpSpec A021. PHI agrees with the proposal. AAMS expressed 
support for this provision but opposed the requirement that operators 
must designate a local flying area, commenting that there are some 
areas where using cross country weather minimums would be preferable. 
They recommended replacing the word ``must'' with ``may.'' Similarly, 
AMOA, Air Evac EMS, and individual members of ACCT commented that a 
local flying area should be optional and that the FAA should also allow 
for non-contiguous local flying areas. Safety and Flight Evaluations, 
International agrees with the proposal to increase the VFR weather 
minimums, but disagrees with the proposed implementation and commented 
that there should not be a differentiation between the weather minimums 
for ``local flying areas'' and ``cross country flying areas'' and that 
the proposed rule inappropriately decreases the minimums when the 
aircraft is equipped with an approved night vision imaging system or 
HTAWS.
Final Rule
    The FAA is adopting this provision with several changes. Based on 
the comments received, the FAA determined that it would be overly 
restrictive to require operators to designate a local flying area that 
would not be used. The certificate holder will not be required to 
designate a local flying area but may do so in order to use the less 
stringent weather minimums. If an operator does not designate a local 
flying area, operations must be conducted in accordance with the more 
restrictive non-local-flying-area minimums in the rule. Thus the change 
in the rule will not negatively affect safety.
    As discussed in the NPRM, a pilot must demonstrate familiarity and 
detailed knowledge of the hazards and high altitude terrain in local 
flying areas in order to use the lower minimums. Thus, the final rule 
includes a requirement that a pilot may not use the local flying area 
weather minimums unless that pilot has passed an examination given by 
the certificate holder within the 12 months prior to using the local 
flying area weather minimums.
    Additionally, the final rule will allow non-contiguous local flying 
areas rather than tying them to the certificate holder's base of 
operations. This rule does not restrict the number of local flying 
areas an operator may designate. The intended safety standard will be 
maintained because before using the less restrictive local flying area 
weather minimums pilots will demonstrate knowledge of that area. The 
title of this section has been changed for clarification.
3. IFR Operations at Airports Without Weather Reporting (Sec.  
135.611--Proposed Sec.  135.609)
    Current part 135 regulations only permit instrument flight into and 
out of airports with an on-site weather reporting source. The FAA 
proposed allowing helicopter air ambulance operators to conduct IFR 
operations at airports and heliports without a weather reporting 
facility if they can obtain weather reports from an approved weather 
reporting facility located within 15 NM of the destination landing area 
and meet other pilot and equipment requirements.
    The NTSB supported the proposal, agreeing that it would ``provide 
an environment suitable for increased use of IFR,'' and noting that it 
would partially respond to Safety Recommendation A-06-93 ``because of 
the potential increase in the availability of IFR approaches for HEMS 
operators.''
    AMOA commented that all part 135 operators should be able to use 
these procedures. The FAA did not propose permitting all part 135 
operators to use these procedures in the NPRM and to

[[Page 9946]]

expand the applicability at this time would not be within the scope of 
this rule. Accordingly, the FAA is not extending this requirement to 
all part 135 operators.
Use of an Area Forecast as an Alternate Weather Source
    Currently, OpSpec A021 is issued to helicopter air ambulance 
operators and allows the use of an area forecast as an alternate 
weather source. The Society of Aviation and Flight Educators noted that 
the changes to OpSpec A021 were made because the FAA had determined 
that navigation by instruments is safer than navigation by visual 
reference. The revisions specifically included area forecasts to 
facilitate greater use of the instrument flight rules system. Many 
operators developed an instrument flight rules system that uses those 
forecasts.
    The Society of Aviation and Flight Educators contended that this 
proposal would require an operator to either add an approved automated 
weather station at a location within 15 NM or to operate with visual 
flight rules. This, according to the commenter, would significantly 
undermine the ability of operators to add instrument operations as a 
safety improvement. PHI, AMOA, ACCT, MaxViz, and the Health Care 
District of Palm Beach County all echoed the call for adding the area 
forecast as an acceptable alternative if a weather reporting station is 
not available.
    The NPRM proposed a higher standard than that required by OpSpec 
A021. That operations specification permits an operator to use an 
approved weather reporting source if one is located within 15 NM of the 
landing area but if there is not such a source within that distance 
from the landing area, an area forecast may be used.
    In response to comments, and upon further review, the FAA has 
changed the requirements of this rule from those proposed in the NPRM. 
This final rule allows IFR operations at an airport without weather 
reporting if the certificate holder has an area forecast for the 
vicinity of the destination landing from the National Weather Service, 
a source approved by the NWS, or a source approved by the FAA. As 
discussed in the NPRM, the FAA finds that an area forecast is 
sufficient for the purposes of this rule because helicopter air 
ambulance operators have a history of safely operating under an 
exemption \8\ or under OpSpec A021, on which this rule is based. The 
area forecast allowance of the exemption and OpSpec A021 is the same as 
in this final rule language.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \8\ Exemptions No. 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).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Pilot and Equipment Requirements
    The FAA also revised the rule language to eliminate several 
sections that were determined to be redundant with existing part 135 
regulations. The redundancies removed were the requirements for pilots 
to: (1) Have a current Sec.  135.297 instrument proficiency check; (2) 
hold an instrument rating; (3) complete a course including a review of 
IFR regulations, interpreting weather, reviewing instrument charts, and 
crew resource management; (4) learn methods for determining present 
visibility and ceilings; and (5) be tested on approaches authorized 
under this provision. In all these cases the FAA finds that pilots who 
conduct part 135 operations must already meet these standards, or that 
these standards are sufficiently incorporated into current pilot 
training requirements.
    The FAA also deleted the proposed requirements for aircraft to be 
equipped with an autopilot if used in lieu of a second in command as 
required by Sec.  135.101, and for the aircraft to be equipped with 
navigation equipment appropriate to the approach to be flown. Again, 
this requirement is redundant with existing Sec. Sec.  135.101 (SIC) 
and 135.105 (autopilot), which must be followed during part 135 
operations.
    In response to a comment from AMOA that the references to ``storm 
scopes'' were outdated, the FAA deleted the references in proposed 
Sec.  135.609(b)(2) to ``airborne weather radar'' and ``lightning 
detection'' as types of severe-weather detection equipment. The final 
rule requires that helicopters conducting these operations be 
``equipped with functioning severe weather-detection equipment.''
Requirements for Departures
    The rule requires that the weather at the departure point must be 
at or above the minimums for visual flight rules for a pilot to make an 
IFR departure. The pilot in command is authorized to determine whether 
the weather meets the takeoff requirements of part 97 or of the 
certificate holder's operation specification.
    The FAA concludes that this new provision will increase instrument 
flight and result in more air ambulance helicopters operating in a 
positively controlled environment, thereby increasing safety.
4. Approach/Departure IFR Transitions (Sec.  135.613--Proposed Sec.  
135.611)
    This rule was proposed to establish weather minimums for helicopter 
air ambulances that have been using an instrument approach and are now 
transitioning to visual flight for landing. This section is intended to 
encourage IFR operations because of their safety benefits. Pilots on an 
instrument approach would, upon reaching a point in space at a minimum 
descent altitude or decision altitude, continue the flight to the 
landing area under visual flight rules if conditions permit. The 
weather minimums that pilots will follow are based on the type of 
approach the pilot is flying and the distance between the missed 
approach point and the heliport or landing area. Pilots continuing on 
the ``proceed visually'' segment of an instrument approach into an 
airport or heliport for which the approach is designed would follow the 
weather minimums on the approach chart when completing that approach.
    The FAA notes that in most cases the rule permits flight under less 
restrictive weather minimums than are currently allowed for cruise 
flight in uncontrolled airspace. As noted in the NPRM, obstacles in the 
vicinity of an instrument approach are flight-checked and marked on 
instrument approach charts. It is less likely that pilots would 
encounter unexpected obstacles when following an instrument approach 
chart. However, if the distance of the VFR portion of the flight is 3 
NM or more, then the VFR weather minimums for that class of airspace 
apply. We emphasize that if a 3-NM-or-more VFR segment is flown in 
Class G airspace, the applicable VFR weather minimums would be those 
found in Sec.  135.609.
    The rule also permits a pilot to depart with a VFR-to-IFR 
transition under the less restrictive weather minimums allowed for 
approaches if the pilot follows an FAA-approved obstacle departure 
procedure, has filed an IFR flight plan and obtains an IFR clearance at 
a predetermined location, and the transition to IFR occurs no farther 
than 3 NM from the departure point. Pilots who cannot meet these 
requirements must use the standard VFR weather minimums required for 
that class of airspace, which would be those found in Sec.  135.609 for 
Class G airspace. As noted in the NPRM, a pilot who simply flies the 
reverse course of the approach used when landing would not be following 
an FAA-approved obstacle departure procedure. That is because this 
procedure has not been flight-

[[Page 9947]]

checked to specific departure criteria and therefore obstacle clearance 
cannot be guaranteed.
    A total of 21 individuals affiliated with PHI commented on the 
proposal for this rule. These commenters supported the proposed rule 
and noted that it is consistent with current OpSpec A021 requirements. 
Commenters also noted that proposed Sec.  135.611(a)(2) contained an 
incorrect cross reference to Sec.  135.611(a)(1)(i).
    Safety and Flight Evaluations, International stated concerns with 
the construction of some PinS approaches. First, it noted the 
complexity in distinguishing between ``proceed visually'' and ``proceed 
VFR,'' because the weather minimums on the approach charts apply to 
``proceed visually'' segments, while the distance from the missed 
approach point to the landing area dictates the weather minimums. It 
stated that having various minimums was complex and would not encourage 
IFR operations. Next, it noted the possibility that a pilot could reach 
the missed approach point, determine that the weather meets the 
requirements to proceed VFR, and then lose sight of the landing area. 
This would leave the pilot unable to continue IFR because the pilot 
would no longer be in protected airspace. Finally, Safety and Flight 
Evaluations, International commented that ICAO has established clearer 
requirements for similar operations and asked whether the proposed 
requirements comply with ICAO Procedures for Air Navigation Services--
Aircraft Operations (PANS-OPS) definitions which limits the proceed VFR 
PinS procedure to no more than 3 kilometers.
    As a result of this comment, the FAA revised the rule language for 
clarification. During preflight planning, pilots will be able to 
identify the type of approach to be flown, the distance to the 
destination from the missed approach point and determine the applicable 
weather minimums for the VFR segment of the flight. This section does 
not apply to ``proceed visually'' segments of instrument approaches, 
which are the final segments (minimum descent altitude or decision 
height) of instrument approaches prior to landing. VFR flight rules do 
not apply to ``proceed visually'' segments. Instead, the weather 
minimums for ``proceed visually'' segments are found on the approach 
chart. This section applies to the ``proceed VFR'' segments of PinS 
approaches and VFR maneuvering after transitioning to VFR from an IFR 
approach.
    The FAA has reviewed the ICAO PANS-OPS requirements and concludes 
that the ICAO operational requirements are not significantly different 
from this rule. In both cases, once the pilot concludes the IFR portion 
of the flight, the pilot is no longer under air traffic control and is 
operating under VFR. Further, the ICAO PANS-OPS paragraph 4.1.2.2 
contemplates that member States may establish minimum visibility for 
PinS Proceed VFR procedures. We note that this rule does not address 
instrument approach design standards. These are what dictate the length 
of a segment between a missed approach point and a landing area. The 
FAA expects that pilots who transition to VFR and then encounter 
weather below VFR minimums would execute a missed approach procedure, a 
standard procedure followed when an instrument approach cannot be 
completed, if available, or follow appropriate emergency procedures.
    The title of Sec.  135.613 has been changed so that it more 
accurately reflects its subject. Additionally, the section has been 
reorganized for clarification.
5. VFR Flight Planning (Sec.  135.615--Proposed Sec.  135.613)
    In the NPRM, the FAA proposed to require helicopter air ambulance 
pilots conducting operations under VFR to perform preflight planning to 
determine the minimum safe altitude along the planned route.\9\ This 
proposal would codify a provision in OpSpec A021.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \9\ Section 306(a) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 
2012 (Pub. L. 112-95) requires the FAA to conduct rulemaking on 
helicopter air ambulance operations to address ``flight request and 
dispatch procedures.'' Though the benefits are less than costs for 
this provision, it satisfies the Congressional mandate as required 
by the Act.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    As proposed, the rule requires helicopter air ambulance pilots 
conducting VFR operations to evaluate, document, and plan to clear 
terrain and obstacles by no less than 300 feet for day operations, and 
500 feet at night. With this minimum safe cruise altitude established, 
the pilot must then use it to determine the minimum required ceiling 
and visibility for the flight. If the weather minimum will not permit 
visual flight at the minimum safe cruise altitude, the pilot must 
conduct the flight under IFR or not fly at all. The proposed rule 
allowed for deviations from the planned flight path if conditions or 
operational considerations make it necessary. If deviating, however, 
the pilot must still observe the weather or terrain/obstruction 
clearance requirements. This rule is intended to prevent obstacle 
collisions by requiring pilots to be aware of the terrain and highest 
obstacles along a planned route.
    The FAA received 79 comments on the proposal for VFR flight 
planning, including comments from several individuals affiliated with 
ACCT, Air Evac EMS, PHI, and REACH. Sixty-nine commenters, including 
ACCT, AMOA, PHI, Air Evac EMS, Angel One Transport, and REACH, agreed 
with the proposed language.
    NEMSPA strongly opposed the ``highest obstacle determination'' of 
the proposed rule, commenting that this requirement would have 
dangerous unintended consequences since pilots with launch time 
requirements would have up to 40 percent of their available preflight 
time taken up by a superfluous task, resulting in the likelihood that 
some critical items will not be accomplished. This commenter further 
asserted that the highest obstacle requirement should only apply when 
flying outside of the local flying area in a helicopter not equipped 
with a night vision imaging system or HTAWS, when the reported or 
forecasted weather conditions are less than 5 statute miles visibility 
and/or the ceiling is less than 3,000 feet above ground level or above 
the highest obstacle on the course.
    Although agreeing with this proposal, several commenters, including 
AMOA, Air Evac EMS, and individual members of ACCT, recommended 
applying it to all part 135 operators. The NTSB agreed with the intent 
of the requirement, but believes a number of issues should be 
clarified. It commented that the FAA should provide guidance for 
minimum route width requirements for obstacle and terrain clearance 
evaluation, because aircraft may deviate from the planned course 
centerline. Several commenters also noted that requiring that obstacles 
be cleared vertically is not practical when some obstacles can be 
cleared by flying around them and recommended adding a corresponding 
route width to the visibility minimum. The NTSB also requested that the 
FAA clarify whether route evaluations must be performed before each 
flight or if an approval of a flight path can be performed on a less 
frequent basis for frequently flown routes.
    The FAA has determined that establishing a minimum route width 
would have an overly burdensome effect on helicopter air ambulance 
operations and pose operational difficulties for pilots who fly in 
mountainous or urban environments. A minimum route width would require 
pilots to fly at an altitude sufficient to clear the obstacles within 
the designated route width. As an example, a 3-mile route width 
requirement could force a pilot who safely flies under visual flight 
rules in a valley to operate at an altitude above

[[Page 9948]]

the highest peak because the mountains on each side would be included 
in the route width. This could easily place a visual flight operator 
into instrument flight conditions. The FAA recognizes that helicopter 
air ambulance operations can be safely conducted under VFR, and 
therefore has chosen not to impose this limitation. Operators would 
need to evaluate the route prior to each VFR operation.
    This requirement is intended to prevent obstacle collisions by 
ensuring that pilots know the minimum safe altitude that would permit 
clearance for all obstacles along the route. Therefore, the FAA 
considers that VFR flight planning is not a superfluous task for pilots 
with launch time requirements, but rather an important safety 
requirement. Additionally, the FAA concludes that all helicopter air 
ambulance operations flights conducted under VFR will benefit from this 
safety requirement, and does not intend to restrict this requirement to 
flights outside of the local flying or flights without a night vision 
imaging system or HTAWS.
    This rule requires a pilot to perform preflight planning from 
takeoff to landing for each flight conducted under VFR. This rule does 
not permit a pilot to conduct preflight planning on a less frequent 
basis for frequently flown routes. The purpose of flight planning 
before each flight is to ensure that the information used is current, 
as conditions and obstacles may change between each flight. However, 
the FAA notes that if a route is flown routinely, the amount of time 
required to do the preflight planning may be reduced. As noted in the 
NPRM, a helicopter air ambulance mission may include more than one leg. 
The flight plan may be completed for the whole mission prior to the 
first leg, but each subsequent leg of the mission must be reconsidered 
before takeoff and amended as appropriate.
    The FAA will not apply this requirement to all commercial 
helicopter operations because it is not within the scope of the 
rulemaking.
    This requirement is adopted as proposed with minor edits for 
clarification.
6. Pre-Flight Risk Analysis (Sec.  135.617--Proposed Sec.  135.615)
    The FAA proposed establishing a requirement for helicopter air 
ambulance operators to conduct a preflight risk analysis. The risk 
analysis would focus on such variables as the characteristics of the 
planned flight path, flight crewmember ability to safely conduct the 
operation, weather, and whether the flight has been rejected by another 
operator. The purpose of this exercise is to give certificate holders a 
way to assess risk and determine whether any risks can be mitigated so 
that the flight can be conducted safely.
    A total of 83 commenters, including Air Methods, Advanced Life 
Support and Emergency Response Team (A.L.E.R.T.), Med-Trans Corporation 
(Med-Trans), NEMSPA, the NTSB, REACH, and Staff for Life commented on 
this section. Several of those commenters, including ACCT, MedCenter, 
MedServ International, LLC (MedServe), NEMSPA, and NTSB agreed with the 
proposal.
Operational Considerations
    The NTSB noted that this rule should not be a substitute for the 
safety benefits that would be provided by an OCC. Other commenters, 
including HAI, Med-Trans, and REACH, thought that the proposed 
requirement might duplicate the requirements for an OCC or safety 
management program. A.L.E.R.T. said that documenting risk assessments 
for every flight would be counterproductive and would delay responses 
without improving safety and that it performs a risk assessment for 
every shift--not every flight. Staff for Life said that the risk 
assessment is not necessary because it has never done anything to save 
lives and pilots are constantly assessing the risks during preflight, 
flight, and post-flight.
    The FAA disagrees that a pilot's in-flight assessment of risks is a 
sufficient substitute for the preflight risk assessment. Rather, they 
are complementary. The purpose of assessing risk before an operation is 
to be able to mitigate those risks before the operation, thereby 
preventing a pilot from encountering an unmanageable situation while in 
the air. It is of course possible that a pilot will encounter risks 
while conducting the helicopter air ambulance operation despite having 
performed a preflight risk assessment, and it is then that the pilot's 
skills will be used to mitigate those risks. As discussed in the NPRM, 
the FAA and the NTSB have identified several accidents which may have 
been prevented had a preflight risk analysis been completed. The NTSB 
concluded that ``implementation of flight risk evaluation before each 
mission would enhance the safety of emergency medical services 
operations.'' \10\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \10\ NTSB, Special Investigation Report on Emergency Medical 
Services Operations (NTSB/SIR-06/01) 4 (Jan. 25, 2006).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    This rule requires the pilot in command to conduct a preflight risk 
analysis before the first leg of a helicopter air ambulance operation. 
As discussed in the NPRM, it would be completed before departure on the 
first leg, but take into account factors that may be encountered during 
the entire operation. The FAA acknowledges that certain parts of a 
preflight risk analysis can be accomplished at the beginning of a 
shift. However, time-sensitive components of a preflight risk analysis, 
such as crew fatigue, weather, required fuel, and route-specific 
information, should be conducted as close to the flight launch as 
possible. A blanket analysis at the beginning of each shift may not 
provide an accurate risk assessment.
    The FAA acknowledges that the pre-flight risk analysis will be an 
additional requirement that must be performed before beginning a 
helicopter air ambulance operation and certificate holders may not be 
able to launch a flight as quickly as before. The initial regulatory 
evaluation estimated that the preflight risk analysis would take 10 
minutes to complete. The FAA has determined that a 10-minute delay is 
acceptable because of the safety benefit of identifying risks before 
flight.
    The FAA also understands that there will be overlap between this 
requirement and the OCC requirement for certificate holders with 10 or 
more helicopter air ambulances. Under that requirement, both the 
operations control specialist and the pilot in command will be required 
to complete and approve the risk analysis worksheet. This overlap is 
intended to provide larger operations with an additional measure of 
review over the flight's risk analysis.
Content of the Pre-Flight Risk Analysis
    Thirty-five commenters, including Air Methods and REACH, did not 
agree with the proposal to require certificate holders to establish a 
procedure to determine whether another operator has refused or rejected 
a flight, saying that such a procedure would be too haphazard and 
unreliable to serve as a regulatory requirement. AMOA said the 
provision is unfair and unrealistic without a companion requirement for 
operators to report a flight rejection. PHI, like AMOA, believes 
reporting of flight rejections by other operators cannot be done 
uniformly unless the other operators are required to report that 
information.
    The FAA has communicated with State EMS medical directors, advising 
them of the problem of helicopter shopping. We will continue this 
outreach to emphasize the importance of obtaining the reasons for 
flight refusal by helicopter air ambulance operators.

[[Page 9949]]

We will also work with emergency dispatchers and certificate holders in 
sharing this information.
    Two commenters, including the Society of Aviation and Flight 
Educators, agreed with the requirement to obtain concurrence on the 
preflight risk analysis from someone other than the flightcrew during 
marginal weather. Air Methods said the requirement for managerial 
approval of the preflight risk analysis when flight risk exceeds a 
predetermined level is unfeasible. PHI said it has its own risk 
assessment, which requires operational control management approval for 
flight requests above a preset risk matrix level.
    PHI requested eliminating the requirement for the pilot's signature 
on the risk assessment before takeoff. Another commenter asked whether 
an electronic signature would be sufficient.
    The rule requires operators to establish and document, and include 
in their FAA-approved preflight risk analysis, a procedure for 
determining ``whether another helicopter air ambulance operator has 
refused or rejected a flight request.'' The FAA understands the 
commenters' concerns regarding the ability to obtain information about 
flight refusals and rejections from other operators. To clarify, it is 
not the intent of this rule to require a definitive declaration on the 
preflight risk assessment as to whether the flight has been refused or 
rejected by another operator. Rather, it would be acceptable for a 
certificate holder that is called for a flight to ask the dispatcher 
offering the flight if another operator has turned it down. If the 
person offering the flight (emergency dispatcher, 911 operator, etc.) 
does not know or cannot give the reason why the flight was turned down, 
the certificate holder need only make note of that in the preflight 
risk analysis and factor in that information as deemed appropriate. 
Compliance with this rule does not require certificate holders to call 
other operators to ask if the flight was refused or rejected or to 
inform other operators that they have refused or rejected a flight. A 
flight would not be presumed high risk just because there was no 
definitive response from an emergency dispatcher about whether the 
flight was refused or rejected by another operator. An operator 
following this procedure will have fulfilled its duty with respect to 
the rule.
    The FAA has determined that although the flight refusal or 
rejection information need not be definitive, it can yield useful 
information about the potential risk of a flight. Additionally, the FAA 
believes that this requirement will encourage certificate holders to 
tell dispatchers why a flight is refused or rejected to provide 
valuable safety information to other operators. It may also encourage 
emergency dispatchers to develop procedures for obtaining this 
information.
    In the final rule, the FAA did not change the requirement for 
management approval of flights in situations where a predetermined risk 
level is exceeded. The FAA has determined that management input 
provides an important second opinion on whether to conduct a flight if 
the risk is not clear cut. The FAA reiterates that management 
involvement must not be used to pressure pilots into conducting a 
flight that the pilot has determined to be unsafe. Likewise, the FAA 
emphasizes that the rule permits certificate holders leeway to develop 
preflight risk assessment procedures that work for them within the 
parameters set by the rule. Operators like PHI, which have established 
procedures, may comply with this requirement by incorporating their 
existing procedures into the mandated risk assessment.
    Regarding whether an electronic signature on the preflight risk 
assessment would be accepted, the final rule does not specify the 
method by which a pilot must sign a preflight risk assessment. The 
purpose of the risk analysis requirement is to ensure that pilots 
examine the risks associated with an operation and get information to 
mitigate those risks. The signature is important because it is the 
pilot's verification that the information in the risk analysis is 
accurate and complete. Therefore, an electronic signature would be 
acceptable. FAA guidance on electronic signatures is found in Advisory 
Circular (AC) 120-78 (October 29, 2002).
Other Comments
    A few commenters, including Metro Aviation and REACH, stated that 
the proposal for the risk assessment was unclear and left significant 
room for interpretation and inconsistent or uneven enforcement. Many 
commenters asked that the FAA revise its previous guidance on risk 
assessment to more adequately reflect current industry best practices 
and provide more consistency to the risk assessment and mitigation 
process.
    Some commenters asked the FAA to develop and improve the preflight 
risk analysis worksheets so they can be more meaningful and useful to 
pilots, crews, and operations center personnel. Four commenters, 
including Air Methods, Metro Aviation, and AMOA, asked that the 
requirement for FAA approval of the risk analysis procedures be 
deleted. An individual commented that the requirement to retain the 
records of the risk analysis for 90 days is inconsistent with the load 
manifest and flight log data retention requirements.
    This requirement is based on FAA Notice 8000.301, Operational Risk 
Assessment Programs for Helicopter Emergency Medical Services, which, 
in part, provides practical examples of preflight risk assessments. The 
FAA has determined that these examples, along with this rule, provide 
adequate direction to certificate holders for implementation of this 
rule. The FAA will provide guidance to inspectors on how to enforce 
this rule. Nevertheless, the rule has been designed to allow 
flexibility so that certificate holders can develop procedures 
appropriate for their operations.
    Finally, the FAA is not modifying the 90-day data retention 
requirement. The 90-day retention will allow the operator to conduct a 
quarterly review to identify trends in its operations to further 
mitigate risks in future flights. This requirement is adopted as 
proposed.\11\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \11\ Section 306(d)(1) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act 
of 2012 (Pub. L. 112-95) requires the FAA to conduct a rulemaking 
that provides for a flight risk evaluation program in helicopter air 
ambulance operations. Additionally, section 306(c)(1) requires the 
rule to address flight request and dispatch procedures.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

7. Operations Control Centers (OCCs) (Sec. Sec.  135.619, 120.105, and 
120.215)
    The proposal included a new requirement that certificate holders 
with 10 or more helicopter air ambulances establish OCCs staffed with 
operations control specialists. These specialists would take part in 
preflight risk analysis required by Sec.  135.617, maintain two-way 
communications with pilots, give pilots weather information, and 
monitor the progress of the flight. They would ensure that the pilot 
has completed the preflight risk analysis worksheet, confirm and verify 
the entries on the worksheet, and work with the pilot to mitigate any 
identified risk. The specialist would also sign the risk assessment 
worksheet along with the pilot. Certificate holders would be required 
to train and provide enough staff for their OCCs to make sure these 
services could be provided.
Applicability of the Rule
    A number of commenters (including AMOA, NTSB, LifeFlight of Maine, 
AAMS, Air Evac EMS, NEMSPA, PHI, and ACCT) addressed the proposed 
requirement for certificate holders with 10 or more helicopter air 
ambulances to have an OCC.

[[Page 9950]]

    These commenters objected to applying this requirement only to 
operators with 10 or more helicopter air ambulances. One commenter said 
that fleet size has no bearing on the stated risks a pilot faces. AMOA, 
Air Evac EMS, ACCT, and PHI called the distinction ``arbitrary and 
subjective'' and said this distinction does not recognize the 
complexity of operating less than 10 helicopter air ambulances that are 
geographically separated. All of these commenters suggested that if 
there are clear benefits to the use of an OCC, then the requirements 
should be applicable to all.
    The NTSB commented that if operators with less than 10 helicopters 
are not included in this requirement, then they ``will transport 
approximately 100,000 patients or more per year without the added 
safety benefit of an OCC.'' Commenters explained that while the 
requirement should apply to all operators, it should be scalable for 
those with less than 10 helicopters. Comments referenced AC 120-96, 
which provides guidance for setting up OCCs for four levels of 
operators based on size.
    LifeFlight of Maine commented that all air ambulances (both rotor 
and fixed wing) should have an OCC and that while 24 large certificate 
holders operate 70 percent of the aircraft in the industry (as stated 
in the NPRM), operators with less than 10 aircraft, who make up 68 
percent of the certificate holders, are not immune to accidents and 
need the extra layer of protection given by an OCC.
    AAMS recommended allowing smaller operators to subcontract OCC 
services from larger providers or private vendors for certain flight 
tracking and communication services, while maintaining ultimate 
operational control of the flight. Med-Trans and REACH asked for the 
ability to contract for certain functions of an OCC with another OCC. 
REACH commented that contracting would allow more operators to take 
advantage of the many safety benefits of an OCC but also share the 
cost. It noted that each operator would retain management authority and 
operational control responsibility.
    Med-Trans and REACH also suggested an alternate way of applying the 
OCC requirements. They said that ``[s]everal companies currently 
operate aircraft on several different certificates but only utilize one 
[OCC]. Several air medical operators operate air ambulances on multiple 
certificates. Operations control center functions can be conducted 
without imposing a requirement for an [OCC] for each certificate.'' 
They stated that the rule must allow air medical operators to combine 
OCC functions for multiple certificate holders that are under the same 
management. They said that this will achieve the benefits of an OCC 
without the additional cost. They also noted that this change would 
prevent companies from establishing multiple certificates with 9 or 
fewer helicopters on each to avoid the OCC requirement.
    Angel One Transport, a hospital-based pediatric critical care 
transport in Little Rock, Arkansas, commented that the proposed 
exclusion of fixed-wing air ambulances and air ambulance operators with 
less than 9 helicopters creates an ``at risk'' group in the air medical 
industry. Angel One Transport said that ``as a small operator, our 
program has many of the same characteristics of an OCC established in 
our program's operations though we do not meet the stated letter of the 
law in the NPRM.'' Angel One Transport asked the FAA to consider adding 
language that allows smaller operators to have the ``functional 
capabilities'' of an operations control center, noting that ``the 
functions of an OCC are invaluable but the financial obligations for a 
small operator to comply with such requirements are cost prohibitive.''
    Another small operator, A.L.E.R.T. in Kalispell, Montana, operates 
with only one helicopter. The commenter stated that the requirement for 
OCCs is a good idea, but that it should be based on the number of 
aircraft and not the number of dispatches or flights. It further 
asserted that ``an operational control center would be very costly, 
which could easily be absorbed by a larger operation but prohibitive to 
a small one and not necessary.''
    NEMSPA said that ``for smaller operations with a dispatch or 
communications center, placing personnel in that facility who meet the 
requirements for an operational control specialist should satisfy the 
requirements for the facility to be an operational control center.''
    LifeFlight of Maine supported extending the OCC requirements to all 
operators of an air ambulance, including rotor or fixed wing, to have 
an OCC regardless of size. Only one commenter, AAMS, suggested that 
this compliance requirement should be based on number of hours flown 
and geographical area covered rather than number of helicopters.
    It is possible that a small operator with only one or two 
helicopters could reach a set hourly limit, but would not have the same 
level of operational complexity as a certificate holder flying the same 
number of hours but with 10 or more helicopters. Nevertheless, the FAA 
is requiring an OCC only for certificate holders with 10 or more 
helicopter air ambulances, as proposed. As discussed in the NPRM, these 
larger certificate holders will gain the most benefit from an OCC 
because their operations are more complex. This requirement will cover 
approximately 83 percent of the U.S. helicopter air ambulance fleet.
    The FAA specifically asked for comments on whether the 
applicability of this requirement should be based on the number of 
operations or hours flown by each aircraft, rather than fleet size. 
After evaluating the comments, the FAA has concluded that fleet size is 
the best method for determining whether the OCC requirement would 
apply. The fleet size requirement is easily observed and evaluated by 
industry and the FAA. Additionally, the FAA does not have data that 
would allow us to determine how many hours or number of operations 
would constitute a complex operation, nor has the FAA received such 
information during the comment period.
    The FAA acknowledges that one company may hold several certificates 
for helicopter air ambulance operations. In these circumstances, each 
certificate would be evaluated independently rather than in the 
aggregate. Provided that each certificate holder has fewer than 10 
helicopters used for air ambulances in its fleet, then no OCC would be 
required.
Other OCC Comments
    PHI noted that OCCs were originally an invention of air medical 
operators to more effectively manage operations control. PHI said its 
Enhanced Operations Control Center has become a critical component in 
the company's safety and risk management process as well as the OCC 
within the company. PHI, however, along with AMOA, Air Evac EMS, and 
ACCT, does not believe the requirement as proposed is consistent with 
the highest industry standards. These commenters also believe that the 
OCC requirements are too much like those for part 121 air traffic 
control and dispatch functions and are not compatible with part 135 on-
demand operations. They suggested delaying implementation of the rule 
until a minimum operating standard based on industry best practices 
could be developed. They recommend the FAA conduct an additional study 
of existing OCCs.
    LifeFlight of Maine commented that AC 120-96 is inadequate for 
principal operations inspectors and recommended additional guidance in 
line with industry best practices. The National

[[Page 9951]]

Association of Air Medical Communications Specialists (NAACS) sought 
clarification on the meaning of ``formalized dispatch'' and ``enhanced 
operational procedures.''
    As noted in the NPRM, the duties and training requirements of 
operations control specialists are based on AC 120-96, Integration of 
Operations Control Centers into Helicopter Emergency Medical Services 
Operations (May 2008), which provides recommendations to assist 
helicopter air ambulance operators with the development and 
implementation of an OCC. Also as noted, AAMS, HAI, and AMOA commented 
to the NTSB 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.'' \12\ These 
requirements found in the AC and in the rule are intentionally similar 
to part 121, but as noted in the AC, helicopter air ambulance 
operations are unique and therefore the FAA did not adopt the full part 
121 aircraft dispatch requirements. We also note that the standard 
adopted in this rule is a baseline that can be augmented by an 
operator.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \12\ 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.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Operations Control Specialists
    One commenter said that the FAA should require a dispatch center 
staffed with part 121 certificated dispatchers. This commenter said 
that the FAA should certify dispatchers, and those dispatchers should 
plan and evaluate the entire flight before contacting the pilot and 
then monitor the flight's progress to destination.
    The NTSB also supported FAA certification of operations control 
specialists and commented that such a requirement will ensure that the 
FAA has oversight over training, testing, and certification, and will 
provide quality control. By requiring operations control specialists 
with standard certification, NTSB asserts that this may facilitate 
development of OCCs that will be able to subcontract their services to 
smaller HEMS entities.
    NEMSPA recommended a standard for operations control specialist 
training set by the industry and approved by the FAA before any 
requirement is put in place. Med-Trans, REACH, Air Evac EMS, AMOA, 
California Shock Trauma Air Rescue (CALSTAR), Omniflight Helicopters, 
Inc. (Omniflight), and Intermountain Life Flight do not believe that 
operations control specialists should be required to obtain 
certification in order to do their work. However, one individual 
questioned why a certified dispatcher is not qualified to act in an 
operations control position but a graduate of a company-sponsored 
program is.
    The FAA received comments stating that the operations control 
specialist training proposed in the NPRM too closely follows the 
training program for part 121 dispatchers. The FAA acknowledges that 
the requirements of this rule were based on part 121 dispatcher 
training rules. The topics selected for training, however, were derived 
from FAA AC 120-96, which provides a recommended training curriculum 
for communications specialists. The certificate holder may contract for 
operations control specialist training or testing in accordance with 
Sec.  135.324. The certificate holder may use a part 142 training 
center or another certificate holder for operations control specialist 
training and testing.
    Commenters also asked for a clearer distinction between the 
operations control specialists required by this rule and ``CommSpecs,'' 
the communication specialists currently employed in the air ambulance 
industry. NAACS asked whether the aviation base curriculum for 
operations control specialists would enhance safety benefits beyond the 
current ``Certified Flight Communicator'' program offered by NAACS. In 
response to this question, the FAA notes that the areas of required 
training for an operations control specialist, derived from AC 120-96, 
are specified in the rule. Compliance with this rule will enhance 
safety because the training will be required and standardized for all 
operations control specialists. The FAA does not believe that a 
distinction between operations control specialists and CommSpecs is 
necessary. This rule requires that an OCC be staffed by an operations 
control specialist at all times while helicopter air ambulance flights 
are being conducted. The number of persons functioning in this capacity 
is not mandated, but there must be a sufficient number of them to 
ensure operational control of each flight. An operator may also staff 
an OCC with CommSpecs, but these persons are not mandated and they may 
not perform the functions of an operations control specialist as listed 
in Sec.  135.619(a)(1)-(4) unless they satisfy the qualification and 
training requirements of an operation controls specialist.
    Thirty-four commenters, including Air Evac EMS, Intermountain, Med-
Trans, Metro Aviation, Inc. (Metro Aviation), National Air 
Transportation Association (NATA) and REACH, objected to the proposed 
10-hour duty time limitation for operations control specialists. They 
commented that this operations control specialist work shift limit 
reflects regulations applied to part 121 dispatchers and does not 
reflect any best practice or proven standard in the air medical 
community. Air ambulance pilots, although only permitted to fly 8 
hours, work a 12-hour shift. These commenters, including AMOA, PHI, Air 
Evac EMS, and ACCT, described situations where the differences in shift 
hours could interfere with completion of a mission. PHI believes that 
requiring a duty day for these specialists that is less than that 
required of pilots is both arbitrary and unnecessary. PHI said that the 
operations control specialist requirement for a 10-hour workday 
effectively adds an additional full-time employee to the OCC and 
significant costs to the operator without a demonstrated benefit. REACH 
remarked that it is unclear why OCC personnel should be more limited in 
their duty time than flight or medical crews.
    After reviewing these comments, the FAA has determined that the 
proposed operations control specialist duty time is appropriate. The 
FAA acknowledges that these standards may be different than what some 
communications specialists may currently be practicing. However, as 
discussed in the NPRM, the operations control specialist duty time 
limitation is based on the duty time requirements for part 121 aircraft 
dispatchers. The FAA has determined that, based on the similarities of 
these positions, it is appropriate to use the same duty time 
limitation. Finally, although pilots may have a longer duty period than 
operations control specialists under this rule, the flight time 
limitations placed on pilots within their duty periods (or subsequent 
rest requirements) limits the pilot's exposure to risk.
    In conjunction with the proposal for OCCs, the FAA proposed 
revising Sec. Sec.  120.105 and 120.215 to add operations control 
specialists to the list of persons who must be tested for drugs and 
alcohol. Eleven commenters, including Air Methods, Metro Aviation, and 
several individuals affiliated with REACH, argued that operations 
control specialists should be exempt from part 120 drug and alcohol 
testing.
    Operations control specialists will be performing safety-sensitive 
functions such as providing preflight weather assessment, assisting 
with fuel planning and alternate airport weather minimums, and 
communicating with pilots about operational concerns during flight. 
These duties are similar to those

[[Page 9952]]

of an aircraft dispatcher, and thus operations control specialists 
would be subject to the same restrictions on drug and alcohol use, and 
to a certificate holder's drug and alcohol testing program, as 
described in 14 CFR part 120.
    An operations control specialist who failed a drug test, functioned 
as an operations control specialist without completing training or 
passing examinations, or verified false entries on a preflight analysis 
worksheet, could be subject to enforcement action or civil 
penalties.\13\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \13\ See Sec. Sec.  13.14 (Civil Penalties: General); 13.16 
(Civil Penalties); 120.33 (Use of Prohibited Drugs); 120.37 (Misuse 
of Alcohol).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The FAA's reference to ``formalized dispatch'' in the NPRM refers 
to an established consistent process that certificate holders will use 
when dispatching a flight. The term ``enhanced operational control'' 
involves more people than only the pilot in the flight release process. 
For example, it may include the pilot and an operational control 
specialist, the chief pilot, or the director of flight operations.
    Section 135.619 is adopted as proposed. The wording has been 
modified to ensure clarity.\14\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \14\ Section 306(d)(2) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act 
of 2012 (Pub. L. 112-95) requires the FAA to conduct a rulemaking 
that requires operations control centers for helicopter air 
ambulance services with 10 or more helicopters. Additionally, 
section 306(c)(1) requires the rule to address flight request and 
dispatch procedures.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

8. Briefing of Medical Personnel (Sec. Sec.  135.117 and 135.621--
Proposed Sec.  135.619)
    In the NPRM, the FAA proposed to require that medical personnel on 
board a helicopter air ambulance flight receive a supplemental 
preflight safety briefing with information specific to helicopter air 
ambulance flights.\15\ This information would be in addition to the 
passenger briefing currently required by Sec.  135.117. As an 
alternative to the proposed preflight safety briefing, certificate 
holders would be permitted to provide training every 2 years to medical 
personnel through an FAA-approved training program.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \15\ Section 306(a) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 
2012 (Pub. L. 112-95) requires the FAA to conduct rulemaking on 
helicopter air ambulance operations to address ``flight request and 
dispatch procedures.'' Though the benefits are less than costs for 
this provision, it satisfies the Congressional mandate as required 
by the Act.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The NTSB, A.L.E.R.T., LifeFlight of Maine, AAMS, and Angel One 
Transport supported the requirement. LifeFlight of Maine noted that 
continual educational opportunities for medical personnel will further 
enhance situational awareness and promote operational safety.
    AAMS, while supporting this proposal, suggested that the FAA work 
with industry to develop standardized briefing criteria and procedures 
in order to avoid confusion and inconsistent enforcement of this 
provision. Several commenters also suggested that accommodations should 
be made to permit briefings that are not as extensive as those proposed 
for the rare instances when medical personnel not associated with air 
medical operations are transported.
    Several commenters, including the NTSB, NEMSPA, and the Society of 
Aviation and Flight Educators, suggested that medical personnel safety 
training be conducted on an annual basis because much of their 
knowledge will degrade over time. A.L.E.R.T. made a similar suggestion, 
noting that it conducts training when it hires new personnel and 
annually after. AMOA, PHI, NEMSPA, the Health Care District of Palm 
Beach County and Air Evac EMS recommended that the FAA develop a 
standard and an approval process for a medical crew training program. 
Several commenters suggested that the medical personnel training 
program should be consistent with the Air Medical Resource Management 
(AMRM) program supported by FAA and industry. AMOA, PHI and Air Evac 
EMS also commented that it is unnecessary to require medical personnel 
training record retention for an additional 60 days beyond the 24 
months.
    AMOA, PHI, and Air Evac EMS expressed several concerns with this 
provision. They commented that a lack of formal guidance would lead to 
misunderstanding of the requirements along with inconsistent 
application and enforcement.
    The FAA finds that medical personnel on helicopter air ambulance 
flights will benefit from an increased familiarity with the helicopter 
and emergency procedures due to their unique role of providing patient 
care while simultaneously working around an operating helicopter. The 
preflight briefing and training is intended to prevent medical 
personnel from inadvertently introducing risk to the operation when 
outfitting the passenger compartment for the purpose of providing 
medical treatment and when providing medical care to a patient.
    The FAA notes that medical personnel preflight briefing and 
training is distinct from AMRM training. The AMRM program is not a 
preflight safety briefing, but rather a tool used by operators to 
improve communication and teambuilding skills among its employees 
during air medical operations. While the FAA supports the use of the 
AMRM program, it is a distinct program and unrelated to the medical 
personnel preflight safety briefing/training proposed in the NPRM and 
adopted in the rule.
    As proposed in the NPRM and contained in the final rule, this 
provision requires a briefing for medical personnel on the 
physiological aspects of flight, patient loading and unloading, safety 
in and around the helicopter, in-flight emergency procedures, emergency 
landing procedures, emergency evacuation procedures, efficient and safe 
communications with the pilot, and operational differences between day 
and night operation. The FAA concludes that these requirements will 
provide certificate holders with sufficient guidance on how to conduct 
briefings, which will lead to consistent application and enforcement of 
this provision. Additionally, as proposed in the NPRM and contained in 
the final rule, this provision mandates that any certificate holder 
that chooses to conduct a medical personnel training program in lieu of 
preflight briefings must have an FAA-approved training program in 
place. This will also ensure consistency in application and enforcement 
of this provision.
    The FAA will not provide exceptions or accommodations to permit 
briefings that are not as extensive as those proposed for the rare 
instances when medical personnel not associated with air medical 
operations are transported. All medical personnel onboard a helicopter 
air ambulance flight who have not received the optional training 
provided for by this rule must receive the preflight safety briefing. 
Medical personnel not associated with that particular operation may 
still inadvertently introduce risk to the operation when on board the 
flight. The preflight safety briefing will provide these medical 
personnel with familiarity with the helicopter and emergency 
procedures, thus reducing the risk that those personnel will affect the 
overall safety of the operation. If medical personnel are not being 
transported during a ``helicopter air ambulance operation'' as defined 
in Sec.  135.601, the operator would only need to provide the standard 
part 135 passenger briefing as found in Sec.  135.117.
    The FAA has determined that medical personnel safety training will 
be conducted every 24 months. The NPRM proposed training every 24 
months, and although commenters suggested that training occur on an 
annual basis, the FAA has determined that the required 4

[[Page 9953]]

hours of ground training and 4 hours of training in and around the air 
ambulance helicopter every 24 months will provide a sufficient amount 
of familiarity with the aircraft and emergency procedures.
Final Rule
    Based on the comments received, the FAA is adopting the rule as 
proposed with changes. The FAA concludes that requiring medical 
personnel training record retention for an additional 60 days beyond 
the 24 months is unnecessary and has amended the final rule to require 
that records be maintained for only 24 months following the 
individual's completion of training. If an incident occurs near the end 
of the retention period, the FAA expects that these relevant documents 
will be retained per NTSB regulation 49 CFR Sec.  380.10(d). 
Additionally, we removed redundant briefing topics in Sec.  135.621 
based on existing briefing requirements of Sec.  135.117.
9. Helicopter Terrain Awareness and Warning Systems (HTAWS) (Sec.  
135.605)
    The FAA proposed a requirement for equipping helicopter air 
ambulances with HTAWS. There is no existing requirement for this 
equipment. One commenter stated that installation of HTAWS has been 
``the single most effective technology for reducing helicopter 
mishaps'' among U.S. military helicopters. The NTSB concurred with the 
proposal and noted that it would meet Safety Recommendation A-06-15. 
However, commenters also raised concerns over the effectiveness of 
HTAWS, the need for flexibility, and the cost of the rule.
    A number of commenters, including NEMSPA, questioned why the FAA 
would propose mandating HTAWS, saying that its technology has not been 
proven in helicopters. Commenters assert that terrain awareness and 
warning systems (TAWS), the predecessor to HTAWS technology, has only 
been truly tested with airplanes operating in the high altitude 
instrument flight rules environment and that there is no evidence to 
show that HTAWS is effective in low-level visual flight operations. 
Other commenters said that this equipment is more effective in 
mountainous areas than in less challenging terrain, is a ``distraction 
in the cockpit,'' ``doesn't give the pilot the ability to see and avoid 
weather,'' and ``doesn't keep you from spatial disorientation.'' A 
number of commenters said that requiring operators to invest in this 
technology today might preclude them from acquiring more effective 
technology as it becomes available in the future.
    EADS Cassidian Electronics stated that air ambulance operators are 
the most prominent part of the flying community for which HTAWS can 
assist in preventing controlled flight into terrain and obstacle strike 
accidents, but the FAA should be clear about the limitations of current 
HTAWS systems caused by the reliance on databases. It stated that the 
vertical accuracy of the ground altitude of a database is approximately 
60 feet, which does not include objects like trees, ``which seems to be 
insufficient for take-off and landing.'' Databases, according to the 
commenter, only include a fraction of man-made obstacles, such as power 
lines, antenna masts, and wind turbines which are not included in the 
database in real time. To resolve these problems, the commenter stated 
that the best solution would be to require equipment with a real-time 
forward-looking sensor system that would issue warnings for every 
obstacle in the flight.
    AAMS commented that HTAWS and night vision goggles (NVGs) should be 
required together as each provides benefits that complement the other. 
LifeFlight of Maine commented that HTAWS and NVGs should be a minimum 
standard for night operations. Max-Viz Inc. (Max-Viz) and several 
individuals commented that NVGs provide better protection from 
controlled flight into terrain than HTAWS. Additionally, one individual 
recommended requiring an autopilot rather than HTAWS because it is less 
expensive and more effective. Several members of ACCT also stated that 
autopilots are more effective than HTAWS. They claimed that HTAWS only 
provides a warning to a pilot of an impending collision or altitude 
loss, but the pilot's corrective actions with the flight controls 
prevent controlled flight into terrain. They stated that an autopilot 
would decrease the risk of controlled flight into terrain and accidents 
from IIMC by holding the aircraft flight path steady and reducing a 
pilot's susceptibility to spatial disorientation during IIMC recovery 
maneuvers. The reasons that the FAA did not adopt NVG or autopilot 
requirements in this rule are addressed in the discussion of pilot 
instrument ratings, Sec.  135.603, below.
    The FAA disagrees with comments that HTAWS is not proven technology 
as it relates to helicopters and that it would not be effective in 
preventing controlled-flight-into-terrain accidents. RTCA/DO-309 
Minimum Operational Performance Standards for HTAWS and Airborne 
Equipment TSO-C194 set the standards for HTAWS. The FAA and 
manufacturers have installed, evaluated and certified HTAWS in 
helicopters and the systems have been shown to perform their intended 
function as designed in low altitude environments.
    The FAA concludes that the use of HTAWS would create a safer 
environment for emergency medical services flight operations by 
preventing controlled flight into terrain at night or during bad 
weather. As noted in the NPRM, the NTSB cites 17 accidents in its 
Special Investigation Report on Emergency Medical Services Operations 
(Jan. 25, 2006) \16\ that may have been prevented if the helicopters 
had been equipped with TAWS. The FAA maintains that HTAWS will make 
helicopter air ambulance pilots more aware of surrounding terrain and 
obstacles and keep them from collisions. It may prevent the accidents 
that happen when a pilot must take sudden and quick action to avoid a 
collision and then loses control of the helicopter.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \16\ The report can be accessed at: http://www.ntsb.gov/safety/safetystudies/sir0601.html (December, 10, 2013).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The FAA acknowledges that there may be lags between the time when 
new obstacles are erected and the time when they are put into an HTAWS 
database. However, the FAA has determined that the VFR flight planning 
and the VFR altitude requirements adopted here will help to offset such 
a lag by providing increased situational awareness to pilots. Likewise, 
the radio altimeter required under these rules will provide increased 
situational awareness by providing pilots with additional information 
about their altitude above the ground.
    The FAA received several comments addressing the flexibility in the 
rule and whether the implementation timeline is appropriate. Commenters 
including AMOA and PHI expressed the need for minimum equipment list 
(MEL) relief for HTAWS in the event that the unit is inoperable. Air 
Methods stated that the rule's reliance on the technical standard order 
(TSO) process would ``inhibit future technological benefits without a 
lengthy rule changing process.'' The Health Care District of Palm Beach 
County stated that, in the future, HTAWS may not be the most effective 
way to achieve terrain and obstacle avoidance. AMOA commented that the 
rule should be performance based to allow flexibility for incorporation 
of later technology.
    LifeFlight of Maine and other members of the ACCT stated that they 
believed that the 3-year timeline for

[[Page 9954]]

implementation provides ample time to comply with the rule and to 
finance the costs. They did not agree with extending the time to comply 
or limiting the applicability of this requirement. FreeFlight Systems 
also commented that the 3-year implementation period seemed reasonable.
    Bristow Group noted its support for requiring all helicopters 
engaged in commercial service to be equipped with HTAWS if not already 
equipped with a radio-altimeter-based warning system.
    The FAA acknowledges that technology could be improved over time, 
but does not agree that mandating this particular type of equipment 
will constrain the ability to embrace new technologies. Incorporation 
by reference of new TSO requirements allows the agency to adopt revised 
technological standards. The need to incorporate new TSOs into the 
regulation, due to technological innovation, will not hinder adoption 
of that technology in helicopter air ambulances.
    In response to comments on the need for flexibility should an HTAWS 
unit become inoperable, the FAA agrees that an HTAWS may meet the 
requirements for MEL relief with certain conditions on the types of 
operations that could be conducted while the HTAWS was inoperable. The 
exact scope of such relief will be addressed through the FAA's standard 
MEL process.
    Based on the comments received, the FAA has determined that the 
compliance date for the HTAWS requirement does not need to be extended. 
Extending the HTAWS requirement to the entire commercial helicopter 
population would be outside the scope of this rulemaking.
    Finally, West Michigan Air Care estimated that its cost of 
compliance with the HTAWS requirement would be $75,000 for its two-
helicopter air ambulance operation. The FAA notes that this estimate is 
consistent with the FAA's estimate of $35,000 per helicopter for 
equipment and installation, plus $7,000 for revenue loss for equipment 
downtime. Additionally, while the FAA recognizes the financial burden 
new equipment requirements impose on operators, providing 3 years from 
the effective date of the final rule for installation will allow 
certificate holders to spread the cost of compliance over that period 
of time and take advantage of scheduled downtime for maintenance.
    This rule is adopted as proposed with minor edits for 
clarification.\17\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \17\ Section 306(c)(3) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act 
of 2012 (Pub. L. 112-95) requires the FAA to conduct a rulemaking 
that addresses use of HTAWS in helicopter air ambulance operations.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

10. Flight Data Monitoring System (Sec.  135.607) \18\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \18\ Section 306(a) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 
2012 (Pub. L. 112-95) directs the FAA to conduct rulemaking on 
helicopter air ambulance operations to address ``safety enhancing 
technology and equipment,'' including ``devices that perform the 
function of flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders.'' 
Though the benefits are less than costs for this provision, it 
satisfies the Congressional mandate as required by the Act.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In the NPRM, the FAA stated it was considering requiring helicopter 
air ambulance operators to install a flight data monitoring system, 
referred to in the NPRM as a light weight aircraft recording system 
(LARS).\19\ 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. Section 
135.152 requires flight data recorders (FDRs) in rotorcraft with a 
passenger seating configuration of 10 or more seats. Most helicopters 
used in air ambulance operations are configured with fewer than six 
passenger seats, and thus are not required to be equipped with either 
CVRs or FDRs.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \19\ Although the NPRM did not contain proposed rule text, the 
FAA provided a detailed discussion of the proposals under 
consideration and asked for comments in anticipation of including an 
FDMS requirement in the final rule.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In the NPRM, the FAA invited comments on the flight data monitoring 
system proposal under consideration. The FAA proposed that the flight 
data monitoring system ``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).'' 
Further, as proposed, the flight data monitoring system would have to 
be operated from the application of electrical power before takeoff 
until the removal of electrical power after termination of flight. It 
would be required to receive electrical power from the bus that 
provides the maximum reliability for operation without jeopardizing 
service to essential or emergency loads. Under the proposal, 
certificate holders would have had 3 years to comply with the rule. The 
FAA noted a flight data monitoring system can be used to promote 
operational safety, and that, because so few certificate holders are 
using such systems, it may be necessary to require them. Likewise, the 
FAA stated that these systems can provide critical information to 
investigators in the event of an accident.
    The FAA received numerous comments on this proposal regarding 
flight data monitoring system use in accident investigation and Flight 
Operational Quality Assurance (FOQA) programs, the standards for the 
flight data monitoring system, the rule's implementation date, and the 
FAA's cost estimate.
Accident Investigation/Use in a FOQA Program
    Many commenters supported a requirement for FOQA. LifeFlight of 
Maine and members of ACCT support both a requirement to install a 
flight data monitoring system and a requirement to participate in the 
FOQA program, and commented that flight data monitors can assist with 
accident investigation. They recommended that the FAA conduct a joint 
technical study with the NTSB and air ambulance operators who are using 
a FOQA program to determine the data capture rate needed to meet NTSB 
accident investigation needs and what data feedback requirements would 
best support FOQA programs. Eurocopter commented that FOQA use is 
preferable to use in accident investigation, and the Global Helicopter 
Flight Data Monitoring Steering Group commented that accident 
investigation use is only reactive, but FOQA use can be proactive.
    PHI supports installation and use of a flight data monitoring 
system in air ambulance aircraft. It suggested requiring operators to 
develop an internal process for using data collected by the system for 
analysis, identification and mitigation of at-risk behaviors across the 
organization, as well as development of supplemental educational 
opportunities for air ambulance pilots. PHI said that the focus of the 
flight data monitoring system should be to prevent accidents. It said 
the emphasis should be placed on FOQA and flight data management 
implementation and benefits. HAI supports and encourages flight data 
monitoring technology because it has obvious safety benefits for 
accident investigation and the potential for development of FOQA and 
other safety programs. Alakai Technologies Corporation commented that 
the requirement should be extended across all helicopter operations.
    An individual commented that satellite tracking, currently in use 
by his company, records flight information that can be used to help 
rescue the aircraft and provides the necessary information on aircraft 
operations making a flight

[[Page 9955]]

data monitoring system unnecessary. Kestrel Air stated that the cause 
of most air ambulance accidents is already known and that flight data 
monitoring systems do not record flight visibility data, thus adding 
little value to analyzing IIMC encounters.
    A FOQA program is meant to improve flight safety by providing more 
information about, and greater insight into, the total flight 
operations environment. This is accomplished with selective automated 
recording and analysis of data generated during flight operations. 
Analysis of FOQA data can reveal situations that require improvement--
in operations, in training, and in maintenance procedures, practices, 
equipment, or infrastructure.
    In response to comments about mandatory FOQA participation, the FAA 
notes that 14 CFR part 13, Investigative and Enforcement Procedures, 
states conditions under which information obtained from an approved 
voluntary FOQA program will not be used in enforcement actions against 
an operator or its employees. Part 193, Protection of Voluntarily 
Submitted Information, contains provisions for certain protections from 
public disclosure of voluntarily submitted safety-related information 
when such information has been designated by an FAA order as protected 
under that part. As stated in the NPRM, these protections are available 
only if the data is collected by the operator as part of a voluntary 
FAA-approved program. In support of this public safety objective, the 
FAA has endorsed the development and implementation of voluntary FOQA 
programs as a tool for continuously monitoring and evaluating 
operational practices and procedures, but maintaining the voluntary 
nature of the program is paramount and does not allow the FAA to 
mandate FOQA for any operator.
    As discussed in the NPRM, this equipment may be used to provide 
significant information for investigators to determine accident 
causation, which may help to prevent future accidents. In addition, the 
data can be used proactively by an operator to modify operational and 
maintenance procedures for increased efficiency and lower costs, to 
provide immediate feedback to pilots in training, and to highlight 
areas where additional training may be needed.
    The final rule requires certificate holders operating helicopter 
air ambulances to install and operate a flight data monitoring system 
in their helicopters. The FAA is not extending this requirement to all 
helicopter operations because that option was not presented in the 
NPRM. Although the FAA encourages operators to take advantage of the 
many uses of this data, this final rule does not require data 
collection because mandating it would open up that data to FAA 
surveillance, amounting to a required submission. The FAA is concerned 
that such an action would discourage operators from participating in a 
FOQA program.
    Although operators will not be required to collect data from the 
flight data monitoring system, the FAA encourages them to gather this 
information and analyze it for use in improving safety in their day-to-
day operations. Based on current practice, some will choose to use the 
system this way. The rule will not preclude operators from 
participation in an FAA-approved FOQA program, and data submitted 
voluntarily as part of a FOQA program will be protected under part 193.
    The FAA anticipates that the information that this equipment can 
gather may be used as a supplement to a certificate holder's training 
program.
Flight Data Monitoring System Capabilities
    The FAA received many comments on the flight data monitoring system 
standards discussed in the NPRM, including several stating that a 
regulation is not appropriate at this time. However, the FAA also 
received comments in support of flight data monitoring system, 
including from the NTSB.
    AAMS supports installation of a flight data monitoring system on 
air ambulance helicopters but says the proposal was not specific enough 
to justify a regulation at this time. NORTH Flight Data Systems stated 
a regulation would slow technological development of these systems. PHI 
recommended that the FAA conduct a comprehensive outreach process in 
partnership with certificate holders who currently have a flight data 
monitoring system installed and are participating in flight data 
monitoring FOQA programs. The commenter suggested this as a way to 
determine what data is needed for flight data management and what are 
realistic cost estimates for installing those systems and operating a 
fully functional flight data monitoring FOQA program.
    AMOA suggested waiting to establish a regulation until there is a 
more thorough understanding of current products, but also noted the 
need for MEL relief if a rule were adopted. HAI stated the technology 
is not sufficiently mature at this time to justify a regulation. 
Eurocopter recommended defining the required parameters in conjunction 
with aircraft manufacturers before regulating. Honeywell International 
also suggested the development of minimum performance specifications. 
The General Aviation Safety Network commented that what was proposed, 
with respect to required parameters, is too close to an FDR.
    The FAA also received several comments on whether the flight data 
monitoring system under the rule would need to comply with European 
Organization for Civil Aviation Equipment (EUROCAE) Document ED-155 or 
TSO-C197.
    NTSB said that a recorder that complies with ED-155 would be a 
valuable aid to accident investigations and would be fully capable of 
supporting a structured flight data monitoring program. The NTSB notes 
that a considerable amount of work has been done by EUROCAE (with full 
participation by both the FAA and the NTSB) to develop standards for 
light-weight flight recording devices that would fulfill the 
requirements outlined in the NPRM. The ED-155 standard covers FDR-like 
data recording, CVR-like audio recording, cockpit video, and data-link 
message recording. Several manufacturers are producing recorders to 
this standard at a cost of less than $10,000.
    FreeFlight Systems, an avionics manufacturer, said that TSO-C197 
will drive up costs because it does not allow commercial-grade 
operating systems. This commenter said that, rather than using a TSO, a 
parts manufacturer approval (PMA) should suffice, since a flight data 
monitor failure does not endanger the airframe or other systems in the 
aircraft. For accident investigation purposes, FreeFlight indicated 
that it produces a hardened memory unit which provides protection of 
vital information in the event of a crash. It has significant 
ballistics protection and can withstand a temperature of 1,100 degrees 
Celsius for up to an hour.
    The General Aviation Safety Network commented that no certification 
should be required, except for RTCA DO-160E environmental 
categorization. NORTH Flight Data Systems commented that the 
``crashworthy focus'' of the NPRM will make many products undergo 
redesign to meet the TSO or ED-155 standards.
    The FAA agrees with the NTSB that several manufacturers have 
recording systems able to record flight performance data, audio, 
images, and data-link messages. This final rule is performance based 
and compliance with this rule does not necessarily require

[[Page 9956]]

installation of a TSO-approved system. However, TSO-C197-approved 
articles are an acceptable means of compliance with new Sec.  135.607. 
This equipment must be capable of recording flight performance data. 
Considering the availability of such technology, the FAA has determined 
that a final rule requiring all air ambulance helicopters to equip with 
a flight data monitoring system is justified. This final rule requires 
installation and operation of a flight data monitoring system, but it 
does not require collection of data from that equipment or development 
of data collection processes.
    In response to these comments, the FAA offers clarification. The 
parameters described in the NPRM were meant to illustrate the type of 
data that could be collected by this equipment. In the final rule, the 
FAA does not specify parameters of data or specifically identify a set 
of performance standards that must be met. The final rule also does not 
require data collection or data analysis. It requires only that a 
flight data monitoring system capable of recording flight performance 
data be installed. This final rule simply requires equipment--not data 
collection. The rule does not establish standards for crashworthiness 
or environmental testing. This final rule uses a cost model for an 
approved flight data monitoring system designed and produced under a 
TSO-C197 authorization.
    It would be outside the scope of the rule to require satellite 
tracking of helicopter air ambulances because it was not proposed in 
the NPRM. In developing the 2010 NPRM, the FAA intended that compliance 
with Sec.  135.607 would be met by an FDR-like system installed and 
recording on the helicopter. An operator may demonstrate that a 
satellite tracking system, combined with onboard reporting, has the 
capability to meet the standards in Sec.  135.607.
    The FAA anticipates that relief could be granted for operations 
with an inoperable flight data monitoring system. While a flight data 
monitoring system is a valuable tool that can be used for accident 
investigation, it is a passive device that collects information and is 
not essential for safe operation in the way an oil pressure gauge would 
be. The particular requirements relating to operations with an 
inoperable flight data monitoring system would be developed by FAA's 
Flight Standards Service for its MEL program.
Implementation Date for the Flight Data Monitoring System
    AMOA recommended that the FAA not issue a rule requiring flight 
data monitoring systems until there is a better understanding of 
current products. PHI said that a 3-year implementation time is too 
ambitious. HAI strongly supports flight data monitoring technology, but 
does not believe it is sufficiently mature at this time to serve as the 
basis for a regulatory equipment mandate. HAI and LifeFlight of Maine 
recommend establishment of a joint FAA/industry work group to collect 
relevant data and conduct a study on which to base long term guidance. 
The NTSB, in discussing the work that EUROCAE has done to develop 
standards for light-weight flight recording systems, said an ED-155-
compliant recorder would be an aid to accident investigation and 
encouraged the FAA to include a requirement for a flight data 
monitoring system in the final rule. AMOA commented that operators have 
reported significant delays in the approval process for all types of 
equipment installations. It asked for expedited approval for any 
required new equipment
    The FAA has carefully reviewed the comments that industry needs 
sufficient time to manufacture, obtain and install equipment that meets 
the required performance standards. After considering comments, the FAA 
has determined that it is appropriate to allow 4, rather than 3 years 
from the effective date of the rule for compliance. This extra year is 
warranted to provide additional time for operators to obtain and 
install equipment.
Cost Estimate for Flight Data Monitoring Systems
    In the NPRM, the FAA estimated that the cost of a flight data 
monitoring system would be $6,450 for equipment and installation, and 
accompanying software would cost $750 per year. There was also a $1,913 
average 10-year cost estimate for evaluation, analysis, and use of the 
recorded data. The FAA asked the public to evaluate the accuracy of 
this cost information and those comments are summarized below.
    Bristow Group stated that this equipment is affordable and 
effective and that the FAA should mandate it for all commercial 
helicopters that are not already required to have FDR. It asserts that 
this equipment is proven to bring safety and financial benefits to all 
types of commercial helicopter operations.
    Some commenters, including AMOA, PHI, LifeFlight of Maine, AAMS, 
and Air Evac EMS, said that cost estimates for the flight data 
monitoring system presented in the NPRM were unrealistic. They said 
that equipment bought at that price would not be able to perform all 
the functions mentioned in the NPRM. They also said that the FAA's 
estimates had not included the cost of installation, the cost of time 
out of service, or the cost of reviewing data collected by the device. 
AMOA contended that there is no current device that can perform all the 
functions listed in the proposal. AMOA estimated that flight data 
monitoring system costs are more than $30,000, plus costs associated 
with the development of supplemental type certificates, installation, 
and time out of service. PHI estimated the actual cost of a complete 
flight data monitoring software platform can range from $50,000 to in 
excess of $120,000--a cost that does not include hardware, manpower, or 
recurring service/support and training. LifeFlight of Maine stated that 
one member, who is a part 135 certificate holder with an FAA approved 
FOQA and a flight data monitoring system, found the costs for purchase, 
installation and data collection/analysis to be $27,250 per aircraft. 
AAMS stated that reports from its providers already using flight data 
monitoring systems suggested that the FAA estimates for equipment 
purchase and installation are 4 to 5 times too low and did not account 
for program maintenance, data storage, and report development. Air Evac 
EMS estimated the total cost to be more than $40,000, plus costs 
associated with the development of supplemental type certificates, 
installation, time out of service, and very expensive service 
contracts.
    PHI agreed with AMOA on the cost analysis, saying that the FAA had 
``grossly underestimated'' the cost of flight data monitoring 
equipment, accompanying analysis software, and flight data monitoring 
FOQA program development and maintenance costs. These commenters argued 
that no system on the market could accomplish all the tasks specified 
in the NPRM at the price of $6,450. PHI also commented that ``another 
cost driver for LARS will be the level of crash survivability 
specified.'' PHI strongly urged the FAA to develop unique specific 
minimum operational performance specifications (MOPS) or a TSO for 
helicopter flight data monitoring systems. PHI contended that if this 
equipment is held to the crashworthiness called for in ED-155, some 
operators will not be able to afford it.
    In response to these comments, we note that the FDM capability 
described in the NPRM was meant to illustrate the type of data that 
could be collected by this equipment. We did not intend to propose an 
FDM system that must record all information pertaining to the 
aircraft's state (such as heading, altitude, and attitude), condition 
(such

[[Page 9957]]

as rotors, transmission, engine parameters, and flight controls), and 
system performance (such as full authority digital engine control, and 
electronic flight instrumentation system) that was discussed in the 
NPRM. Under this rule, the operator would be able to determine the 
parameters that the FDM would record. Our estimate of $6,450 ($5,950 
plus $500 for installation) was based on a device that could meet the 
intent of the proposal, not one that could capture every parameter 
listed as examples in the NPRM.
    However, based on the comments received, the FAA reviewed and 
revised the FDMS cost estimates. In the final rule, the FAA 
specifically identifies a set of performance standards that must be 
met. While these performance standards are based on certain 
requirements in TSO-C197 and ED-155, the final rule does not require 
equipment that is compliant with TSO-C197 or ED-155. The FAA is aware 
of equipment that meets TSO-C197 requirements that is currently 
available for $7,000 and uses this estimate in the final rule. The FAA 
also now estimates that installation would cost $8,000 (80 hours x $100 
per hour) which would include time to run operational performance tests 
on the FDMS. We estimate a one-time revenue loss of $7,000 per day for 
installation. Therefore, the FAA estimates the total cost per 
helicopter to be $22,000 ($7,000 equipment, $8,000 installation, $7,000 
revenue loss). Additionally we estimate that operators will incur two, 
one-time, hardware and software license fee costs of $2,500 and $750, 
respectively. For detailed cost information see the accompanying 
regulatory evaluation.
Final Rule
    This final rule will require installation of a flight data 
monitoring system capable of recording helicopter flight performance 
and operational data.\20\ It will not require data collection or 
prescribe standards or parameters for data collection. The flight data 
monitoring system must be activated and operative from the time 
electrical power is turned on before takeoff until it is turned off 
after the end of the flight. Helicopter air ambulance operators will 
have 4 years to comply with the rule. Helicopters equipped with an 
operational FDR that meets the requirements of Sec.  135.607(a)-(b) 
will be in compliance with this rule.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \20\ Section 306(d)(2) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act 
of 2012 (Pub. L. 112-95) requires the FAA to conduct a rulemaking 
that addresses use of devices that perform the function of flight 
data recorders and cockpit voice recorders, to the extent feasible, 
in helicopter air ambulance operations.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    This rule addresses parts of NTSB Safety Recommendations A-06-17 
and A-09-90.
11. Pilot Instrument Ratings (Sec.  135.603)
    The FAA proposed to add Sec.  135.603 to require a helicopter air 
ambulance pilot to hold a helicopter instrument rating. Currently, 
Sec.  135.243(b) requires the pilot in command of a helicopter air 
ambulance to hold, at a minimum, a commercial pilot certificate. 
Helicopter air ambulance pilots are not currently required to hold 
instrument ratings unless they will be flying under instrument flight 
rules (IFR) or, when flying under visual flight rules (VFR), they will 
be flying above a cloud layer (commonly called ``VFR over-the-top'').
    The FAA received comments expressing support for the proposal from 
commenters including the NTSB, AMOA, AAMS, Air Evac EMS, NEMSPA, and 
Safety and Flight Evaluations, International.
    The NTSB agreed with the requirement for a helicopter air ambulance 
pilot to hold an instrument rating, but stated that helicopter air 
ambulance pilots should maintain instrument currency. It commented that 
instrument currency is generally acknowledged to be a skill that 
deteriorates rapidly without continued practice and use. AMOA, NEMSPA, 
Safety and Flight Evaluations, International and numerous individual 
commenters also suggested that the FAA require helicopter air ambulance 
pilots to maintain currency or routinely demonstrate the ability to 
recover from IIMC. Several commenters noted that this requirement 
should be applied to all commercial pilots.
    Identical comments from two individuals suggested requiring 
frequent short training sessions involving unplanned entry into IMC 
followed by an instrument approach to landing at least quarterly in an 
approved aircraft or simulator. They suggested a requirement that a 
table-top PC-based navigation system trainer or similar device be used 
at least monthly. They commented that the FAA should not require using 
a non-motion visual flight simulator with wrap-around visual display. 
They requested that the FAA prohibit flight assignment within 24 hours 
of training in a non-motion visual flight simulator with wrap-around 
visual display.
    The FAA notes that IIMC is a common factor in helicopter air 
ambulance accidents and the intent of the instrument rating requirement 
is to ensure that helicopter air ambulance pilots are better equipped 
to handle these situations. A pilot who receives this rating is better 
equipped to maintain situational awareness and maneuver the helicopter 
into a safe environment. Requiring an instrument rating, without a 
requirement to maintain instrument currency, will allow a VFR operator 
to expend fewer resources than required to meet full currency 
requirements while ensuring that pilots have the skills necessary to 
extract themselves from IIMC. Additionally, mandating instrument 
currency for all commercial pilots is beyond the scope of the current 
rulemaking.
    To prevent IIMC accidents, Sec.  135.293 requires that pilots 
demonstrate the ability to recover from IIMC during their annual 
competency checks. The FAA notes that the IIMC-recovery portion of the 
competency check could be performed in a simulator or flight training 
device, provided that it is consistent with that device's specific 
approval. Pilots who obtain the instrument rating supplemented by the 
preparation for the annual competency check will be adequately prepared 
to recover from IIMC.
    This rule is adopted as proposed.

E. General Comments

FAA Oversight Resources/Delay in Approval/Expedited Approval Process
    AMOA commented that numerous operators report significant delays in 
the approval process for all types of equipment installations. It 
expressed concern about the FAA's ability to inform and educate field 
personnel, such as Flight Standards District Offices (FSDOs) and 
headquarters inspectors, about new rule requirements. It maintained 
that there are a wide range of interpretations and implementations of 
rules, resulting in a lack of standardization throughout the FAA.
    The FAA understands the commenter's concern and has issued guidance 
for inspectors to ensure uniform application of the rule's 
requirements. This rule also contains delayed compliance dates for 
several of its provisions, which will give certificate holders time to 
purchase and install the required equipment and to develop and 
implement required procedures.
Night Vision Goggles and Autopilots
    The NPRM did not propose requiring night vision goggles (NVGs) or 
night vision imaging systems (NVIS). The NPRM included a statement 
explaining that the FAA considered allowing NVGs as an alternate method 
of compliance for the HTAWS requirement, but

[[Page 9958]]

decided that this technology might not be appropriate for all 
operations and that the FAA required further study on this equipment 
before allowing its use instead of HTAWS.
    Numerous commenters, including AMOA, PHI, Air Evac EMS, NEMSPA, 
LifeFlight of Maine, FreeFlight Systems, and AAMS expressed support for 
an NVG or night vision imaging system requirement in this rule. Many 
commented that night vision technology should be mandated in lieu of 
HTAWS. AAMS commented that HTAWS and NVGs should be required together 
as each provides benefits that complement the other. LifeFlight of 
Maine commented that HTAWS and NVG should be a minimum standard for 
night operations. The FAA did not receive any comments stating that the 
FAA should not require NVGs or night vision imaging systems.
    As stated in the NPRM, the FAA considered allowing certificate 
holders to use NVGs or night vision imaging systems as an alternative 
to HTAWS but did not include such a proposal in the NPRM for numerous 
reasons. Night vision goggles may not be appropriate for all 
operations, such as inadvertent flight into IMC. Additionally, the FAA 
stated that it must conduct further research to determine the most 
appropriate use of NVGs before allowing operators to use them as an 
alternate means of compliance. See 75 FR 62654. The FAA is, however, 
currently investigating the benefits, uses and limitations of NVGs.\21\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \21\ Section 318 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 
(Pub. L. 112-95) requires the FAA to study the ``feasibility of 
requiring pilots of helicopters providing air ambulance services 
under part 135 . . . to use NVGs during nighttime operations.''
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Similarly the FAA received comments questioning why this rule did 
not mandate an autopilot requirement. The NTSB commented that the NPRM 
did not address Safety Recommendation A-09-96, which recommended that 
the FAA require all EMS helicopters to be equipped with an autopilot 
for single-pilot operations. NTSB believes that an autopilot is a 
significant aid for unexpected high workload situations, such as IIMC. 
LifeFlight of Maine, Boston MedFlight, Life Flight Network, Angel One 
Transport, NEMSPA, Safety and Flight Evaluations, International, 
members of ACCT, and several individual commenters also expressed 
support for an autopilot requirement. Association of Air Medical 
Services supported the added safety benefits of autopilot technology 
but commented that further research, development, and industry 
collaboration is necessary before a regulatory requirement is 
considered.
    The FAA did not include an autopilot requirement in the NPRM. 
Therefore, mandating an autopilot unit is outside the scope of this 
current rulemaking. Furthermore, the FAA concluded that requiring 
autopilots on helicopter air ambulances in this current rulemaking 
would be premature. Autopilot units may be cost prohibitive and not 
widely available, and may pose space and weight issues for helicopters 
not equipped to handle the units.
Public Aircraft Operations
    The FAA received several comments from public safety organizations, 
including the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the 
Department of California Highway Patrol, asking about the applicability 
of this rule to ``public safety operations'' or stating their 
understanding that the part 135 provisions would not be applicable to 
such operations. The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department 
commented that applying the proposed rules to its public safety 
operations would limit its ability to conduct its operations and 
``render unusable 50% of the helicopter EMS aircraft'' in the county.
    In contrast, several commenters, including AMOA, PHI, and West 
Michigan Air Care, expressed support for extending the provisions of 
this rule to include public aircraft operations. PHI expressed support 
for requiring public aircraft operations to comply with the rules 
proposed in the NPRM, stating that the thousands of passengers 
transported every year by government operators should benefit from the 
safety enhancements in the proposed rule. It stated that the FAA has 
been inconsistent in providing civil aircraft regulatory oversight of 
government operators engaged in air ambulance operations. PHI also 
highlighted NTSB Safety Recommendation, A-09-130, which calls for the 
FAA to seek specific legislative authority to achieve safety oversight 
of helicopter air ambulance operations conducted using government-owned 
aircraft. The Airborne Law Enforcement Association suggested that the 
FAA establish a definition of ``public safety HEMS aircraft.''
    In response, the FAA clarifies that the part 135 provisions of this 
rule do not apply to public aircraft operations. The FAA has statutory 
authority to promote safe flight of civil aircraft in air commerce. See 
49 U.S.C. 44701(a). This authority does not extend to public aircraft 
operations.
    Public aircraft operation is limited by statute to certain 
government operations within U.S. airspace. See 49 U.S.C. 40102(a)(41), 
40125. Although these operations must comply with certain general 
operating rules (including those applicable to all aircraft in the 
National Airspace System), other civil certification and safety 
oversight regulations do not apply. Whether an operation may be 
considered a public aircraft operation is determined on a flight-by-
flight basis, under the terms of the statute. The FAA considers the 
following factors in making these determinations: aircraft ownership, 
the purpose of the flight, and the persons on board the aircraft.
    Specifically, 49 U.S.C. 40102(a)(41)(C) includes as a public 
aircraft ``an aircraft owned or operated by the government of a State . 
. . or a political subdivision of [one of these] governments, except as 
provided in section 40125(b).'' See Legal Interpretation to Ray 
Borrato, from Rebecca B. MacPherson, Assistant Chief Counsel for 
Regulations (July 14, 2011). Section 40125(b) states that an aircraft 
included in Sec.  40102(a)(41)(C) ``does not qualify as a public 
aircraft . . . when the aircraft is used for commercial purposes or to 
carry an individual other than a crewmember or a qualified non-
crewmember.'' ``Commercial purposes'' under the statute means ``the 
transportation of persons or property for compensation or hire. . . .'' 
If an operator receives compensation for conducting operations it would 
not be providing the service as a public aircraft operation, but as a 
commercial vendor. Those flights would not qualify as public aircraft 
operations and the operator would be required to comply with the 
certification and operating rules of 14 CFR part 135.
    To that end, we note that the part 135 provisions of this rule 
would apply only to civil aircraft operations and would not apply to 
public aircraft operations. Accordingly, an aircraft operator that only 
performs public aircraft operations would not need to hold a part 119 
operating certificate permitting part 135 operations. An operator that 
conducts both public aircraft operations and civil operations would 
need to hold a part 119 operating certificate and conduct its civil 
operations pursuant to part 135 rules. We also note that public 
aircraft operations must adhere to part 91 airspace rules; therefore, 
the provisions of Sec.  91.155 would apply to both public and civil 
operations.
    The FAA encourages government entities that conduct public aircraft 
operations to inform the local FSDO that they conduct public aircraft 
operations in the FSDO's area to avoid confusion

[[Page 9959]]

about the oversight of those operations. The FAA conducts surveillance 
and oversight of part 119 certificates holders, including government 
entities that hold such certificates, to verify that they are complying 
with appropriate rules during civil operations.

IV. Regulatory Notices and Analysis

A. Regulatory Evaluation

    Changes to Federal regulations must undergo several economic 
analyses. First, Executive Order 12866 and Executive Order 13563 
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 rule. We 
suggest readers seeking greater detail read the full regulatory 
evaluation, a copy of which we have placed in the docket for this 
rulemaking.
    In conducting these analyses, FAA has determined that this final 
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) is ``significant'' as defined in 
DOT's Regulatory Policies and Procedures; (4) will have a significant 
economic impact on a substantial number of small entities; (5) will not 
create unnecessary obstacles to the foreign commerce of the United 
States; and (6) will 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.
Total Benefits and Costs of This Rule
    The estimated mean benefit value for the rule will be about $821 
million, or $577 million present value, over ten years. The FAA 
estimates the cost of this rule will be approximately $311 million, or 
$243 million present value, over ten years.
Who is potentially affected by this rule?
    Helicopter air ambulance operators, commercial helicopter 
operators, helicopter aerial application operators, and helicopter 
external load operators.
    Assumptions:
     The rule is expected to take effect in 2013. The time 
horizon for these potential benefits is 10 years, 2013 through 2022.
     All monetary values are expressed in constant 2013 
dollars. We calculated the present value of the potential benefit 
stream by discounting the monetary values using a 7 percent interest 
rate from 2013 to 2022.
     The FAA estimated that the helicopter fleet would grow at 
2.8 percent per year.
Benefits of This Rule
    Benefits will accrue from the implementation of new operational 
procedures and additional equipment requirements for helicopter air 
ambulances. This final rule also increases safety for commercial 
helicopter operations by revising requirements for equipment, pilot 
training, and alternate airports and it increases weather minimums for 
helicopters operating under part 91. The estimated mean benefit value 
for these provisions will be $821 million, or $577 million present 
value, over ten years.
Costs of This Rule
    The FAA estimates the cost of this rule will be approximately $311 
million, or $243 million present value, over ten years.
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.
    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.
    Based on the criteria used in the initial regulatory flexibility 
analysis and used again here, this rule will have a significant 
economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The FAA's 
usual threshold for economic significance is a 2 percent annual 
compliance cost to operating revenue. However, we elected to use a more 
conservative threshold of 1 percent annual compliance cost to operating 
revenue in this rulemaking. In the initial regulatory flexibility 
analysis, we stated that the proposed rule would cause small air 
ambulance operators to incur compliance costs such that the ratio of 
annual compliance cost to annual revenue ranged between 1.76 and 1.88 
percent, which we considered significant. We did not receive any 
comments on this determination. In the final regulatory flexibility 
analysis, we have updated the ratio of annual compliance costs to 
annual revenue to a range between 1.80 to 1.87 percent, but our 
determination has not changed--this rule will have a significant 
economic impact on a substantial number of small air ambulance 
operators.
    This final rule will impact air ambulance, air tour, on demand, 
aerial application, and external load operators. The U.S. Small 
Business Administration (SBA) classifies businesses as small based on 
size standards, typically expressed as 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 5 shows the size standards for the entities that will be affected 
by this rule.

[[Page 9960]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR21FE14.001

Air Ambulance Operators
    Because we did not have actual annual revenues for air ambulance 
operators, we estimated them using helicopter counts as a revenue 
driver. We assumed an average of 367 operations per year for each 
helicopter and a charge of $7,000 per operation. The FAA estimated 35 
small air ambulance operators (with estimated revenues lower than $7 
million) out of the 73 air ambulance operators that will be affected by 
this regulation, which we consider a substantial number of small 
entities. Their ratio of annualized cost to annual revenue ranges from 
1.80 to 1.87 percent. Based on the criteria used in the initial 
regulatory flexibility analysis and used again here, this rule will 
have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small air 
ambulance operators. Accordingly, the FAA prepared a regulatory 
flexibility analysis for small air ambulance operators, as described in 
the next section.
Air Tour Operators
    We assumed an average of 747 air tour operations per year for each 
helicopter and a charge of $1,689 \22\ per air tour operation. As such, 
the FAA identified 31 small air tour operators (with estimated revenues 
lower than $7 million) out of the 46 air tour operators that will be 
affected by this regulation, which we consider a substantial number of 
small entities. Their ratio of annualized cost to annual revenue for 
air tour operators ranges from 0.08 to 0.26 percent, which is not 
significant. While this rule will affect a substantial number of small 
air tour operators, they will not incur a significant economic impact.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \22\ We multiplied the average revenue per person for 5 
different operators ($380.56/person) by the average hours per 
operation (0.7396 hours/operation) and by the average revenue 
passengers per helicopters (6 passengers/helicopter).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Demand Operators
    The FAA identified 370 small on- demand operators (with 1,500 or 
fewer employees) out of the 379 that will be affected by this 
regulation, which we consider a substantial number of small entities. 
Although their annualized compliance costs range from $980 to $72,784, 
we were unable to estimate their annual revenues because average 
revenue per flight 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 flight. These factors are not 
likely to result in a distribution around a meaningful average revenue. 
At the higher end of the compliance cost range, the economic impact may 
well be significant, but again, we cannot validate such an estimate. In 
the NPRM, we asked on-demand operators to provide financial data 
pertaining to the rule's impact on their operations, but we did not 
receive any comments in response to this request. Therefore we still 
have no annual revenue data for these operators.
Aerial Application Operators (Part 137)
    We assumed an average of 81 aerial application operations per year 
for each helicopter and a charge of $500 per aerial application 
operation. The FAA identified 224 small aerial application operators 
(with estimated revenues lower than $7 million) out of the 224 aerial 
application operators that will be affected by this regulation, which 
we consider a substantial number of small entities. Their ratio of 
annualized cost to annual revenue is 0.01 percent, which is not 
significant. While this rule will affect a substantial number of small 
aerial application operators, they will not incur a significant 
economic impact.
External Load Operators (Part 133)
    We assumed an average of 1,159 external load operations per year 
for each helicopter and a charge of $625 per external load operation. 
The FAA identified 197 small external load operators (with estimated 
revenues lower than $7 million) out of the 219 external load operators 
that will be affected by this regulation, which we consider a 
substantial number of small entities. Their ratio of annualized cost to 
annual revenue is less than 0.01 percent, which is not significant. 
While this rule will affect a substantial number of small external load 
operators, they will not incur a significant economic impact.
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 rule, (2) the objectives and legal 
basis for the rule, (3) the kind and number of small entities to which 
the rule will apply, (4) the reporting, recordkeeping, and other 
compliance requirements of the rule, and (5) all Federal rules that may 
duplicate, overlap, or conflict with the rule.
Reasons the FAA Considered the Rule
    Helicopter air ambulance accidents reached the highest levels in 
history during the years from 2003 through 2008.\23\ The year 2008 was 
the deadliest. In 2008, five air ambulance accidents killed 21 people, 
including pilots, patients, and medical personnel. A total of 62 
helicopter air ambulance accidents occurred during the period from 1991 
through 2010, and this number included 125 fatalities and a midair 
collision between two helicopter air ambulances. Commercial helicopters 
other than air ambulances had accidents as well. From 1991 through 
2010, these helicopters had 20 accidents and 39 fatalities.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \23\ GAO, Aviation Safety: Potential Strategies to Address Air 
Ambulance Safety Concerns (2009).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    There were four common factors in these accidents--night 
conditions, inadvertent flight into instrument meteorological 
conditions, loss of control, and controlled flight into terrain.
    The impetus for this rulemaking is the number of helicopter 
accidents, noted above. Helicopter air ambulances operate under unique 
conditions. Their flights are often time-sensitive, putting pressure on 
the pilots. Helicopter air ambulances operate at low altitudes and 
under varied weather conditions. These pilots fly year-round in rural 
and urban settings, over mountainous and non-

[[Page 9961]]

mountainous terrain, during the day and during the night, and in 
conditions where visibility is good and in conditions where it is not. 
They must often land at unfamiliar, remote, or unimproved sites with 
hazards like trees, buildings, towers, wires, and uneven terrain.
    In an emergency, many patients will not have a choice of whether 
they want to be transported in a helicopter. They may be in a medical 
condition that prevents them from making decisions about transportation 
or indicating what they want. They cannot choose between competing 
carriers because the company that responds to the scene may be either 
the only one in the area or the first one called. For these reasons, 
and those discussed previously, the FAA is establishing more stringent 
safety regulations to protect patients, medical personnel and flight 
crewmembers onboard helicopter air ambulances.
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.
The Kind and Number of Small Entities to Which the Rule Will Apply
    The FAA identified 35 small air ambulance operators on which the 
rule will have a significant economic impact. We estimate that the 
small air ambulance operators have annual revenues between $2.6 million 
and $5.1 million.
The Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other Compliance Requirements of the 
Rule
    As required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 
3507(d)), the FAA will submit a copy of these sections to the Office of 
Management and Budget (OMB) for its review. The following provisions 
apply to the Paperwork Reduction Act.
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR21FE14.002

All Federal Rules That May Duplicate, Overlap, or Conflict With the 
Rule
    The FAA is unaware of any Federal rules that duplicate, overlap, or 
conflict with this rule.
Other Considerations
Affordability Analysis
    For the purpose of this analysis, the degree to which small 
entities can afford the cost of the 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 by determining the 
ability of each of the small entities to meet its short-term 
obligations by looking at net income, working capital and financial 
strength ratios. 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.
    The average ratio of annualized costs to estimated annual revenues 
for small air ambulance operators ranges from 1.80% percent to 1.87 
percent. Thus, the FAA expects that small air ambulance operators will 
not have trouble affording this rule.
Competitiveness Analysis
    For small air ambulance operators, the average ratio of annualized 
cost to estimated annual revenue ranges from 1.80 percent to 1.87 
percent. For large air ambulance operators, it ranges from 0.90 percent 
to 1.94 percent. For 33 out of the 38 large air ambulance operators, it 
ranges from 1.74 percent to 1.94 percent. The FAA expects that, based 
on these overlapping results, there will be no change in the 
competitiveness of these 33 small air ambulance operators with large 
air ambulance operators. However, for the remaining 5 large operators, 
the average ratio of annualized compliance cost to estimated annual 
revenue ranges from 0.90 percent to 0.93 percent, and this gives them a 
competitive advantage over small air ambulance operators.
Alternatives
    Alternative One--This alternative considers excluding the 
Helicopter Terrain Awareness and Warning Systems (HTAWS) unit from the 
rulemaking. Although this alternative would reduce the ratio of 
annualized compliance cost to annual revenue from a range of 1.80 
percent to 1.87 percent to a range of 1.61 percent to 1.68 percent, 
there would also be a significant reduction in safety.

[[Page 9962]]

    Conclusion--The HTAWS is a tool for situational awareness and for 
helping helicopter air ambulance pilots during night operations. This 
equipment enhances situational awareness in all aspects of flying 
including day or night flight, and flight in instrument meteorological 
conditions. The FAA believes that this equipment is a significant 
safety enhancement for all aspects of helicopter operations. The 
accident data shows that the HTAWS provision could have prevented many 
air ambulance accidents if this equipment had been installed in the 
helicopter. Also, HTAWS is a Congressional mandate under Public Law 
112-95. The Act requires the FAA to conduct rulemaking on helicopter 
air ambulance operations to address ``safety-enhancing technology and 
equipment, including HTAWS. . . .'' Thus the FAA does not consider 
excluding this requirement to be an acceptable alternative in 
accordance with 5 U.S.C. Sec.  603(d).
    Alternative Two--This alternative would affect the requirement for 
certificate holders engaged in helicopter air ambulance operations to 
have an OCC. The population affected would change from operators with 
10 or more helicopters to those with 15 or more.
    Conclusion--The FAA believes that operators with 10 or more 
helicopters engaged in air ambulance operations comprise 83 percent of 
the total air ambulance fleet in the U.S. The FAA believes that 
changing the requirement to apply to operators with 15 or more 
helicopters would decrease the coverage of the population to 78 
percent. Furthermore, the complexity of operations considerably 
increases for operators of 10 or more helicopters. Thus the FAA does 
not consider this to be an acceptable alternative in accordance with 5 
U.S.C. 603(d).
Minimizing the Burden on Small Entities
    The Regulatory Flexibility Act requires agencies to consider the 
impact of their regulatory proposals on small entities and to analyze 
one or more significant alternatives to minimize the rule's burden on 
small entities. The FAA analyzed two alternatives to minimize the 
burden on small entities. We considered excluding the HTAWS unit 
requirement from the final rule. Next, we considered increasing the 
number of helicopters required to trigger the OCC requirement to 15. 
The FAA, however, did not consider these to be acceptable alternatives 
due to the significant enhancement for safety that HTAWS provides to 
helicopter operations. Therefore, the FAA did not adopt this 
alternative.
Conclusion
    This rule will have a significant economic impact on a substantial 
number of small air ambulance operators. The FAA identified 35 small 
air ambulance operators on which the rule will have a significant 
economic impact.

D. 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 States, so long as the standard has a legitimate domestic 
objective, such 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 the 
regulations will improve safety, which is a legitimate domestic 
objective and therefore not an unnecessary obstacle to foreign 
commerce.

E. 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.

F. 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. 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 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) control number.
    The final rule will impose the following new information collection 
requirements.
Private Sector Costs
    (1) Require all rotorcraft used in part 135 operations to be 
equipped with radio altimeters (Sec.  135.160). Certificate holders may 
apply for a deviation from the requirement for helicopters in which a 
radio altimeter cannot physically be installed in the flight deck. 
Estimated number of applications for deviations from on-demand 
helicopters = 94. Estimated number of applications for air tour 
helicopters = 13. Time needed per deviation application = 1 hour. 
Salary of chief pilot = $79 per hour.

[[Page 9963]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR21FE14.003

    (2) Establish VFR ceiling and visibility requirements for 
helicopter air ambulance operations conducted in class G airspace 
(Sec.  135.609). These operators may designate local flying areas. 
Certificate holders electing to do so would document the local flying 
area in a manner acceptable to the administrator. We estimate that 50 
percent of the air ambulance operators will designate local flying 
areas.
    Air ambulance operators = 73.
    Air ambulance operators affected = 50%.
    Time needed to develop local flying area = 2 hours.
    Salary of chief pilot = $79 per hour.
    [GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR21FE14.004
    
    (3) Require air ambulance operators to document the highest 
obstacle along the planned route prior to a VFR flight (Sec.  135.615). 
Affected operators must document the procedures for performing this 
task in their operations manuals.
    Air Ambulance Helicopters = 1,073-1,371.
    Air Ambulance operations per helicopter = 367 per year.
    Flight planning time = 5 minutes per operation.
    Salary of pilot = $75 per hour.

[[Page 9964]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR21FE14.005

    (4) Require each certificate holder performing helicopter air 
ambulance operations to implement an FAA-approved pre-flight risk-
analysis program documented in its operations manual (Sec.  135.617).
    Air ambulance operators = 73.
    Time for chief pilot to develop risk analysis program = 30 hours.
    Time for clerk to develop risk analysis worksheet and insert 
program into operations manual = 30 hours.
    Salary of chief pilot = $79 per hour.
    Salary of clerk = $25 per hour.
    [GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR21FE14.006
    
    (5) Require pilots in command to conduct a pre-flight risk 
analysis, including completion of a risk analysis worksheet before a 
helicopter air ambulance operation (Sec.  135.617).
    Air Ambulance Helicopters = 1,073-1,371.
    Air Ambulance operations per helicopter = 367 per year.
    Flight planning time = 10 minutes per operation.
    Salary of pilot = $75 per hour.

[[Page 9965]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR21FE14.007

    (6) Require operations control specialists to participate in the 
pre-flight risk analysis required by Sec.  135.617, including 
acknowledging in writing the date and time the risk analysis was 
completed and that the flight can be conducted safely (Sec.  135.619).
    Air Ambulance Helicopters operated by certificate holders with an 
OCC = 895-1,144.
    Air Ambulance operations per helicopter = 367 per year.
    Time spent by OCS per pilot's worksheet = 5 minutes.
    Salary of operations control specialist (OCS) = $42 per hour.
    [GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR21FE14.008
    
    (7) Require certificate holders with 10 or more helicopter air 
ambulances to establish operational control centers and document 
operations control specialist duties and training in their operations 
manuals. (Sec.  135.619).
    Operators that need to develop the OCS training = 13.
    Operators that need to change their manuals = 2.
    Time for chief pilot to develop OCS training = 60 hours.
    Time for clerk to develop OCS training = 30 hours.
    Time for chief pilot to change manual = 1 hour.
    Time for clerk to change manual = 0.5 hour.
    Salary of chief pilot = $79 per hour.
    Salary of clerk = $25 per hour.

[[Page 9966]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR21FE14.009

    (8) Require certificate holders that do not currently have 
operations control centers but will be required to have them to retain 
records of the training given to operations control specialists (Sec.  
135.619).
    Operations control specialists = 119-152.
    Time per OCS training record = 5 minutes.
    Salary of clerk = $25 per hour.
    [GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR21FE14.010
    
    (9) Require certificate holders with operations control centers to 
retain operations control specialist training records (Sec.  135.619).
    Operations control specialists = 369-472.
    Time per OCS training record = 5 minutes.
    Salary of clerk = $25 per hour.

[[Page 9967]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR21FE14.011

    (10) Require that medical personnel on board helicopter air 
ambulance flights receive either a supplemental safety briefing or 
safety training in lieu of a pre-flight briefing (Sec.  135.621).
    Affected air ambulance operators = 37.
    Time for chief pilot to develop training = 10 hours.
    Time for clerk to incorporate training into operations manual = 10 
hours.
    Salary of chief pilot = $79 per hour.
    Salary of clerk = $25 per hour.
    [GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR21FE14.012
    
    (11) Certificate holders choosing the option to provide safety 
training would be required to retain training records for persons 
receiving the training (Sec.  135.621).
    Medical personnel = 5,858.
    Time per medical personnel training record = 5 minutes.
    Training: every 24 calendar months.
    Salary of clerk = $25 per hour.

[[Page 9968]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR21FE14.013

    Note:
    Operations control specialists would be subject to certificate 
holders' drug and alcohol testing programs (Sec. Sec.  120.5, 120.15). 
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 the records would be negligible.
Summary of All Burden Hours and Costs
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR21FE14.014

Cost to the Federal Government
    (1) Radio altimeters for rotorcraft operations (Sec.  135.160).
    Applications for deviations from radio altimeter requirement = 107.
    Time needed for review and operations specification = 1.5 hour.
    Salary of inspector at headquarters = $76 per hour.

[[Page 9969]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR21FE14.015

    (2) Local Flying Area (Sec.  135.609).
    Air ambulance operators = 73.
    Air ambulance operators affected = 50%.
    Time needed to review request = 1 hour.
    Salary of inspector at field office = $48 per hour.
    [GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR21FE14.016
    
    (3) Review pre-flight risk analysis procedure and worksheet (Sec.  
135.617).
    Air ambulance operators = 73.
    Time to review = 1 hour.
    Salary of inspector at field office = $48 per hour.

[[Page 9970]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR21FE14.017

    (4) OCS training/amendment to existing manual (Sec.  135.619).
    Operators = 15.
    Time to review OCS training = 1 hour.
    Salary of inspector at field office = $48 per hour.
    [GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR21FE14.018
    
    (5) Review Medical Personnel Training (Sec.  135.621).
    Air ambulance operators = 73.
    Time to review = 1 hour.
    Salary of inspector at field office = $48 per hour.

[[Page 9971]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR21FE14.019

Summary of All Burden Hours and Costs Over 10 Year Period
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR21FE14.020

    As required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 
3507(d)), the FAA has submitted these information collection amendments 
to OMB for its review. Notice of OMB approval for this information 
collection will be published in a future Federal Register document.

G. International Compatibility and Cooperation

    In keeping with U.S. obligations under the Convention on 
International Civil Aviation, it is FAA policy to conform to ICAO 
Standards and Recommended Practices to the maximum extent practicable. 
The FAA has reviewed the corresponding ICAO Standards and Recommended 
Practices and has identified the following differences.
    ICAO Annex 6 Part III, Section II, Chapter 4 sets standards for 
helicopter overwater equipment requirements based on performance class 
and distance from land based on time at normal cruise speed. The FAA 
did not adopt this requirement but instead bases the rule on existing 
FAA helicopter performance criteria and distances from shore.
    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.

H. 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. Additionally, the FAA reviewed 
paragraph 304 of Order 1050.1E and determined that this rulemaking 
involves no extraordinary circumstances.

I. Regulations Affecting Intrastate Aviation in Alaska

    Section 1205 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 1996 (110 Stat. 
3213) requires the FAA, when modifying its regulations in a manner

[[Page 9972]]

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. In the NPRM, the 
FAA requested comments on whether the proposed rule should apply 
differently to intrastate operations in Alaska.
    The agency received comments pertaining to this rule's application 
in Alaska which are discussed in sections III.C.1 (the radio altimeter 
requirement) and III.C.3 (pilot testing on recovery from inadvertent 
flight into IMC, flat-light, whiteout, and brownout conditions) of this 
final rule document. To the requirement for a radio altimeter, 
NorthStar Trekking commented that this equipment can give erroneous 
readings on snow-covered surfaces. In response, as discussed in 
III.C.1, the FAA has determined that the safety benefits of this 
equipment outweigh the possibility of infrequent inaccurate readings. 
In response to the comment about pilot testing, the FAA reiterates that 
pilots will benefit from demonstrating knowledge of procedures for 
aircraft handling in all three conditions, because these conditions may 
occur year-round in many places. As a result, the agency has determined 
that there is no need to make any regulatory distinctions applicable to 
intrastate aviation in Alaska.

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 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 Amendment

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

PART 91--GENERAL OPERATING AND FLIGHT RULES

0
1. Revise the authority citation for part 91 to read as follows:

    Authority:  49 U.S.C. 106(f), 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).


0
2. Amend Sec.  91.155 by revising paragraphs (a) and (b)(1) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  91.155  Basic VFR weather minimums.

    (a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section and Sec.  
91.157, no person may operate an aircraft under VFR when the flight 
visibility is less, or at a distance from clouds that is less, than 
that prescribed for the corresponding altitude and class of airspace in 
the following table:

------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                         Distance from
            Airspace               Flight visibility        clouds
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Class A.........................  Not Applicable....  Not Applicable.
Class B.........................  3 statute miles...  Clear of Clouds.
Class C.........................  3 statute miles...  500 feet below.
                                  ..................  1,000 feet above.
                                  ..................  2,000 feet
                                                       horizontal.
Class D.........................  3 statute miles...  500 feet below.
                                  ..................  1,000 feet above.
                                  ..................  2,000 feet
                                                       horizontal.
Class E:
    Less than 10,000 feet MSL...  3 statute miles...  500 feet below.

[[Page 9973]]

 
                                  ..................  1,000 feet above.
                                  ..................  2,000 feet
                                                       horizontal.
    At or above 10,000 feet MSL.  5 statute miles...  1,000 feet below.
                                  ..................  1,000 feet above.
                                  ..................  1 statute mile
                                                       horizontal.
Class G:
    1,200 feet or less above the
     surface (regardless of MSL
     altitude)
For aircraft other than
 helicopters:
    Day, except as provided in    1 statute mile....  Clear of clouds.
     Sec.   91.155(b).
    Night, except as provided in  3 statute miles...  500 feet below.
     Sec.   91.155(b).
                                  ..................  1,000 feet above.
                                  ..................  2,000 feet
                                                       horizontal.
For helicopters:
    Day, except as provided in    \1/2\ statute mile  Clear of clouds.
     Sec.   91.155(b).
    Night, except as provided in  1 statute mile....  Clear of clouds.
     Sec.   91.155(b).
    More than 1,200 feet above
     the surface but less than
     10,000 feet MSL
        Day.....................  1 statute mile....  500 feet below.
                                  ..................  1,000 feet above.
                                  ..................  2,000 feet
                                                       horizontal.
        Night...................  3 statute miles...  500 feet below.
                                  ..................  1,000 feet above.
                                  ..................  2,000 feet
                                                       horizontal.
    More than 1,200 feet above    5 statute miles...  1,000 feet below.
     the surface and at or above
     10,000 feet MSL.
                                  ..................  1,000 feet above.
                                  ..................  1 statute mile
                                                       horizontal.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    (b) * * *
    (1) Helicopter. A helicopter may be operated clear of clouds in an 
airport traffic pattern within \1/2\ mile of the runway or helipad of 
intended landing if the flight visibility is not less than \1/2\ 
statute mile.
* * * * *

PART 120--DRUG AND ALCOHOL TESTING PROGRAM

0
3. The authority citation for part 120 continues to read as follows:

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


0
4. 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.

0
5. 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

0
6. The authority citation for part 135 is revised to read as follows:

    Authority:  49 U.S.C. 106(f), 106(g), 41706, 40113, 44701-44702, 
44705, 44709, 44711-44713, 44715-44717, 44722, 44730, 45101-45105; 
Pub. L. 112-95, 126 Stat. 58 (49 U.S.C. 44730).


0
7. Amend Sec.  135.1 by adding paragraph (a)(9) to read as follows:


Sec.  135.1  Applicability.

    (a) * * *
    (9) Helicopter air ambulance operations as defined in Sec.  
135.601(b)(1).
* * * * *

0
8. Amend Sec.  135.117 by adding paragraph (a)(9) to read as follows:


Sec.  135.117  Briefing of passengers before flight.

    (a) * * *
    (9) If a rotorcraft operation involves flight beyond autorotational 
distance from the shoreline, as defined in Sec.  135.168(a), use of 
life preservers, ditching procedures and emergency exit from the 
rotorcraft in the event of a ditching; and the location and use of life 
rafts and other life preserver devices if applicable.
* * * * *

0
9. Add Sec.  135.160 to read as follows:


Sec.  135.160  Radio altimeters for rotorcraft operations.

    (a) After April 24, 2017, 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.
    (b) Deviation authority. The Administrator may authorize deviations 
from paragraph (a) of this section for rotorcraft that are unable to 
incorporate a radio altimeter. This deviation will be issued as a 
Letter of Deviation Authority. The deviation may be terminated or 
amended at any time by the Administrator. The request for deviation 
authority is applicable to rotorcraft with a maximum gross takeoff 
weight no greater than 2,950 pounds. The request for deviation 
authority must contain a complete statement of the circumstances and 
justification, and must be submitted to the nearest Flight Standards 
District Office, not less than 60 days prior to the date of intended 
operations.

0
10. Add Sec.  135.168 to read as follows:


Sec.  135.168  Emergency equipment: Overwater rotorcraft operations.

    (a) Definitions. For the purposes of this section, the following 
definitions apply--
    Autorotational distance refers to the distance a rotorcraft can 
travel in autorotation as described by the

[[Page 9974]]

manufacturer in the approved Rotorcraft Flight Manual.
    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) Required equipment. After April 24, 2017, except as provided 
for in paragraph (c), when authorized by the certificate holder's 
operations specifications, or when necessary only for takeoff or 
landing, no person may operate a rotorcraft beyond autorotational 
distance from the shoreline unless it carries:
    (1) An approved life preserver equipped with an approved survivor 
locator light for each occupant of the rotorcraft. The life preserver 
must be worn by each occupant while the rotorcraft is beyond 
autorotational distance from the shoreline, except for a patient 
transported during a helicopter air ambulance operation, as defined in 
Sec.  135.601(b)(1), when wearing a life preserver would be inadvisable 
for medical reasons; and
    (2) An approved and installed 406 MHz emergency locator transmitter 
(ELT) with 121.5 MHz homing capability. 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% 
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 (b)(2) 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% 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 (b)(2) do not apply to batteries (such 
as water-activated batteries) that are essentially unaffected during 
probable storage intervals.
    (c) Maintenance. The equipment required by this section must be 
maintained in accordance with Sec.  135.419.
    (d) ELT standards. The ELT required by paragraph (b)(2) of this 
section must meet the requirements in:
    (1) TSO-C126, TSO-C126a, or TSO-C126b; and
    (2) Section 2 of either RTCA DO-204 or RTCA DO-204A, as specified 
by the TSO complied with in paragraph (d)(1) of this section.
    (e) ELT alternative compliance. Operators with an ELT required by 
paragraph (b)(2) of this section, or an ELT with an approved deviation 
under Sec.  21.618 of this chapter, are in compliance with this 
section.
    (f) Incorporation by reference. The standards required in this 
section are incorporated by reference into this section with the 
approval of the Director of the Federal Register under 5 U.S.C. 552(a) 
and 1 CFR part 51. To enforce any edition other than that specified in 
this section, the FAA must publish notice of change in the Federal 
Register and the material must be available to the public. All approved 
material is available for inspection at the FAA's Office of Rulemaking 
(ARM-1), 800 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20591 (telephone 
(202) 267-9677) and from the sources indicated below. It is also 
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.
    (1) 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 and type the 
TSO number in the search box: http://www.airweb.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library/rgTSO.nsf/Frameset?OpenPage.
    (i) TSO-C126, 406 MHz Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT), Dec. 23, 
1992,
    (ii) TSO-C126a, 406 MHz Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT), Dec. 
17, 2008, and
    (iii) TSO-C126b, 406 MHz Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT), Nov. 
26, 2012.
    (2) RTCA, Inc., 1150 18th Street NW., Suite 910, Washington, DC 
20036, telephone (202) 833-9339, and are also available on RTCA's Web 
site at http://www.rtca.org/onlinecart/index.cfm.
    (i) RTCA DO-204, Minimum Operational Performance Standards (MOPS) 
406 MHz Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELTs), Sept. 29, 1989, and
    (ii) RTCA DO-204A, Minimum Operational Performance Standards (MOPS) 
406 MHz Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELT), Dec. 6, 2007.

0
11. Revise Sec.  135.221 to read as follows:


Sec.  135.221  IFR: Alternate airport weather minimums.

    (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 minimums for that airport at 
the estimated time of arrival.
    (b) Rotorcraft. Unless otherwise authorized by the Administrator, 
no person may include an alternate airport 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, the ceiling and visibility at that airport will be at or above 
the following weather minimums--
    (1) If, for the alternate airport, 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 certificate 
holder, 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, 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 certificate 
holder, the ceiling and visibility minimums are those allowing descent 
from the minimum enroute altitude (MEA), approach, and landing under 
basic VFR.

0
12. Amend Sec.  135.293 by--
0
a. Removing the word ``and'' from the end of paragraph (a)(7)(iii);
0
b. Removing the period and adding ``; and'' in its place at the end of 
paragraph (a)(8);
0
c. Adding paragraph (a)(9);
0
d. Redesignating paragraphs (c) through (f) as paragraphs (d) through 
(g) respectively; and
0
e. Adding new paragraph (c).
    The additions read as follows:


Sec.  135.293  Initial and recurrent pilot testing requirements.

    (a) * * *
    (9) After the next scheduled competency check after April 22, 2014

[[Page 9975]]

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 given in a rotorcraft 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]

0
13. 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.

0
14. 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 instrument qualifications.
135.605 Helicopter terrain awareness and warning system (HTAWS).
135.607 Flight Data Monitoring System.
135.609 VFR ceiling and visibility requirements for Class G 
airspace.
135.611 IFR operations at locations without weather reporting.
135.613 Approach/departure IFR transitions.
135.615 VFR flight planning.
135.617 Pre-flight risk analysis.
135.619 Operations control centers.
135.621 Briefing of medical personnel.

Subpart L--Helicopter Air Ambulance Equipment, Operations, 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 operation means a flight, or sequence 
of flights, with a patient or medical personnel on board, for the 
purpose of medical transportation, by a part 135 certificate holder 
authorized by the Administrator to conduct helicopter air ambulance 
operations. A helicopter air ambulance operation 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.
    (iii) Flights initiated for the transport of a patient or donor 
organ that are terminated due to weather or other reasons.
    (2) Medical personnel means a person or persons with medical 
training, including but not limited to flight physicians, flight 
nurses, or flight paramedics, who are carried aboard a helicopter 
during helicopter air ambulance operations in order to provide medical 
care.
    (3) Mountainous means designated mountainous areas as listed in 
part 95 of this chapter.
    (4) Nonmountainous means areas other than mountainous areas as 
listed in part 95 of this chapter.


Sec.  135.603  Pilot-in-command instrument qualifications.

    After April 24, 2017, 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) After April 24, 2017, no person may operate a helicopter in 
helicopter air ambulance operations unless that helicopter is equipped 
with a helicopter terrain awareness and warning system (HTAWS) that 
meets the requirements in TSO-C194 and Section 2 of RTCA DO-309.
    (b) 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.
    (c) Certificate holders with HTAWS required by this section with an 
approved deviation under Sec.  21.618 of this chapter are in compliance 
with this section.
    (d) The standards required in this section are incorporated by 
reference into this section with the approval of the Director of the 
Federal Register under 5 U.S.C. 552(a) and 1 CFR part 51. To enforce 
any edition other than that specified in this section, the FAA must 
publish notice of change in the Federal Register and the material must 
be available to the public. All approved material is available for 
inspection at the FAA's Office of Rulemaking (ARM-1), 800 Independence 
Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20591 (telephone (202) 267-9677) and from 
the sources indicated below. It is also 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.
    (1) 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 and type the 
TSO number in the search box: http://rgl.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library/rgTSO.nsf/Frameset?OpenPage.
    (i) TSO C-194, Helicopter Terrain Awareness and Warning System 
(HTAWS), Dec. 17, 2008.
    (ii) [Reserved]
    (2) RTCA, Inc., 1150 18th Street NW., Suite 910, Washington, DC 
20036, telephone (202) 833-9339, and are also available on RTCA's Web 
site at http://www.rtca.org/onlinecart/index.cfm.
    (i) RTCA DO-309, Minimum Operational Performance Standards (MOPS) 
for Helicopter Terrain Awareness and Warning System (HTAWS) Airborne 
Equipment, Mar. 13, 2008.
    (ii) [Reserved]


Sec.  135.607  Flight Data Monitoring System.

    After April 23, 2018, no person may operate a helicopter in air 
ambulance operations unless it is equipped with an approved flight data 
monitoring system capable of recording flight performance data. This 
system must:
    (a) Receive electrical power from the bus that provides the maximum 
reliability for operation without jeopardizing service to essential or 
emergency loads, and
    (b) Be operated from the application of electrical power before 
takeoff until the removal of electrical power after termination of 
flight.


Sec.  135.609  VFR ceiling and visibility requirements for Class G 
airspace.

    (a) Unless otherwise specified in the certificate holder's 
operations specifications, when conducting

[[Page 9976]]

helicopter air ambulance operations in Class G airspace, the weather 
minimums in the following table apply:
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR21FE14.021

    (b) A certificate holder may designate local flying areas in a 
manner acceptable to the Administrator, that must--
    (1) Not exceed 50 nautical miles in any direction from each 
designated location;
    (2) Take into account obstacles and terrain features that are 
easily identifiable by the pilot in command and from which the pilot in 
command may visually determine a position; and
    (3) Take into account the operating environment and capabilities of 
the certificate holder's helicopters.
    (c) A pilot must demonstrate a level of familiarity with the local 
flying area by passing an examination given by the certificate holder 
within the 12 calendar months prior to using the local flying area.


Sec.  135.611  IFR operations at locations without weather reporting.

    (a) If a certificate holder is authorized to conduct helicopter IFR 
operations, the Administrator may authorize the certificate holder to 
conduct IFR helicopter air ambulance operations at airports 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) 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 airport. If a weather report is not available, 
the certificate holder may 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 
airport;
    (2) 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;
    (3) In Class G airspace, IFR departures are authorized only after 
the pilot in command determines that the weather conditions at the 
departure point are at or above VFR minimums in accordance with Sec.  
135.609; and
    (4) All approaches must be conducted at Category A approach speeds 
as established in part 97 or those required for the type of approach 
being used.
    (b) Each helicopter air ambulance operated under this section must 
be equipped with functioning severe weather detection equipment.
    (c) 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).
    (d) After completing a landing at the airport 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.  135.613  Approach/departure IFR transitions.

    (a) Approaches. When conducting an authorized instrument approach 
and transitioning from IFR to VFR flight, upon transitioning to VFR 
flight the following weather minimums apply--
    (1) For Point-in-Space (PinS) Copter Instrument approaches 
annotated with a ``Proceed VFR'' segment, if the distance from the 
missed approach point to the landing area is 1 NM or less, flight 
visibility must be at least 1 statute mile and the ceiling on the 
approach chart applies;
    (2) For all instrument approaches, including PinS when paragraph 
(a)(1) of this section does not apply, if the distance from the missed 
approach point to the landing area is 3 NM or less, the applicable VFR 
weather minimums are--
    (i) For Day Operations: No less than a 600-foot ceiling and 2 
statute miles flight visibility;
    (ii) For Night Operations: No less than a 600-foot ceiling and 3 
statute miles flight visibility; or
    (3) For all instrument approaches, including PinS, if the distance 
from the missed approach point to the landing area is greater than 3 
NM, the VFR weather minimums required by the class of airspace.
    (b) Departures. For transitions from VFR to IFR upon departure--
    (1) The VFR weather minimums of paragraph (a) of this section apply 
if--
    (i) An FAA-approved obstacle departure procedure is followed; and
    (ii) An IFR clearance is obtained on or before reaching a 
predetermined

[[Page 9977]]

location that is not more than 3 NM from the departure location.
    (2) If the departure does not meet the requirements of paragraph 
(b)(1) of this section, the VFR weather minimums required by the class 
of airspace apply.


Sec.  135.615  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 in paragraphs (b)(1)-
(2) of this section, determine the minimum required ceiling and 
visibility to conduct the planned flight by applying the weather 
minimums appropriate to the class of airspace for the planned flight.
    (b) Enroute. While conducting VFR operations, the pilot in command 
must ensure that all terrain and obstacles along the route of flight 
are cleared vertically by no less than the following:
    (1) 300 feet for day operations.
    (2) 500 feet for night operations.
    (c) Rerouting the planned flight path. A pilot in command may 
deviate from the planned flight path for reasons such as weather 
conditions or operational considerations. Such deviations do not 
relieve the pilot in command of the weather requirements or the 
requirements for terrain and obstacle clearance contained in this part 
and in part 91 of this chapter. Rerouting, change in destination, or 
other changes to the planned flight that occur while the helicopter 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.  135.617  Pre-flight risk analysis.

    (a) Each certificate holder conducting helicopter air ambulance 
operations must establish, and document in its operations manual, an 
FAA-approved preflight risk analysis that includes at least the 
following--
    (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) A procedure for determining 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 release a flight when a 
risk exceeds a level predetermined by the certificate holder.
    (b) Each certificate holder must develop a preflight 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 a preflight risk analysis 
and complete the preflight risk analysis worksheet in accordance with 
the certificate holder's FAA-approved procedures. The pilot in command 
must sign the preflight 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 preflight risk analysis worksheet at a location 
specified in its operations manual for at least 90 days from the date 
of the operation.


Sec.  135.619  Operations control centers.

    (a) Operations control center. After April 22, 2016, 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. The operations control center must be 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 preflight risk analysis required under Sec.  
135.617 to include the following:
    (i) Ensure the pilot has completed all required items on the 
preflight risk analysis worksheet;
    (ii) Confirm and verify all entries on the preflight risk analysis 
worksheet;
    (iii) Assist the pilot in mitigating any identified risk prior to 
takeoff; and
    (iv) Acknowledge in writing, specifying the date and time, that the 
preflight risk analysis worksheet has been accurately completed and 
that, according to their professional judgment, the flight can be 
conducted safely.
    (b) Operations control center staffing. Each certificate holder 
conducting helicopter air ambulance operations must provide enough 
operations control specialists at each operations control center to 
ensure the certificate holder maintains operational control of each 
flight.
    (c) Documentation of duties and responsibilities. Each certificate 
holder must describe in its operations manual the duties and 
responsibilities of operations control specialists, including preflight 
risk mitigation strategies and control measures, shift change 
checklist, and training and testing procedures to hold the position, 
including procedures for retesting.
    (d) Training requirements. No certificate holder may use, nor may 
any person perform the duties of, an operations control specialist 
unless the operations control specialist has satisfactorily completed 
the training requirements of this paragraph.
    (1) Initial training. Before performing the duties of an operations 
control specialist, each person must satisfactorily complete the 
certificate holder's FAA-approved operations control specialist initial 
training program and pass an FAA-approved knowledge and practical test 
given by the certificate holder. Initial training must include a 
minimum of 80 hours of training on the topics listed in paragraph (f) 
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) Recurrent training. Every 12 months after satisfactory 
completion of the initial training, each operations control specialist 
must complete a minimum of 40 hours of recurrent training on the topics 
listed in paragraph (f) of this section and pass an FAA-approved 
knowledge and practical test given by the certificate holder on those 
topics.
    (e) Training records. 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.

[[Page 9978]]

The training record must include a chronological log for each training 
course, including the number of training hours and the examination 
dates and results.
    (f) Training topics. Each certificate holder must have an FAA-
approved operations control specialist training program that covers at 
least the following topics--
    (1) Aviation weather, including:
    (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 minimums;
    (2) Navigation, including:
    (i) Navigation aids;
    (ii) Instrument approach procedures;
    (iii) Navigational publications; and
    (iv) Navigation techniques;
    (3) Flight monitoring, including:
    (i) Available flight-monitoring procedures; and
    (ii) Alternate flight-monitoring procedures;
    (4) Air traffic control, including:
    (i) Airspace;
    (ii) Air traffic control procedures;
    (iii) Aeronautical charts; and
    (iv) Aeronautical data sources;
    (5) Aviation communication, including:
    (i) Available aircraft communications systems;
    (ii) Normal communication procedures;
    (iii) Abnormal communication procedures; and
    (iv) Emergency communication procedures;
    (6) Aircraft systems, including:
    (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, including:
    (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, including:
    (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 decision making and risk management;
    (vii) Lost aircraft 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, including:
    (i) Concepts and practical application;
    (ii) Risk management and risk mitigation; and
    (iii) Pre-flight risk analysis procedures required under Sec.  
135.617;
    (10) Local flying area orientation, including:
    (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 
flat-light, whiteout, and brownout conditions; and
    (ix) Local aviation and safety resources and contact information; 
and
    (11) Any other requirements as determined by the Administrator to 
ensure safe operations.
    (g) 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 relieved by another qualified 
operations control specialist or until each helicopter air ambulance 
monitored by that person has completed its flight or gone beyond that 
person's jurisdiction.
    (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;
    (iv) 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.
    (h) 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.  135.621  Briefing of medical personnel.

    (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 briefed on the following--
    (1) Passenger briefing requirements in Sec.  135.117(a) and (b); 
and
    (2) Physiological aspects of flight;
    (3) Patient loading and unloading;
    (4) Safety in and around the helicopter;
    (5) In-flight emergency procedures;
    (6) Emergency landing procedures;
    (7) Emergency evacuation procedures;
    (8) Efficient and safe communications with the pilot; and
    (9) Operational differences between day and night operations, if 
appropriate.
    (b) The briefing required in paragraphs (a)(2) through (9) 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.
    (2) Is maintained for 24 calendar months following the individual's 
completion of training.


[[Page 9979]]


    Issued under authority provided by 49 U.S.C. 106(f), 44701(a), 
49 U.S.C. 44730, in Washington, DC, on February 18, 2014.
Michael P. Huerta,
Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration.
[FR Doc. 2014-03689 Filed 2-20-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-13-P