[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 189 (Tuesday, September 30, 2014)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 58672-58674]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-23250]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Aviation Administration

14 CFR Part 135

[Docket No. FAA-2010-0982]
RIN 2120-AJ53


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

AGENCY: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT.

ACTION: Final rule; clarification.

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SUMMARY: This document provides clarification of the intent of the 
Approach/Departure IFR Transitions regulation contained in the 
Helicopter Air Ambulance, Commercial Helicopter, and Part 91 Helicopter 
Operations final rule, published on February 22, 2014. After 
publication, the FAA received comments and questions from intended 
users and industry advocacy groups about the clarity of terms used in 
this regulation, specifically, regarding the use of published 
instrument approaches and departures and the visibility limitations and 
differences between the terms ``proceed visually'' and ``proceed VFR''. 
The FAA is clarifying the terms and intent of this regulation in order 
to increase situational awareness and enhance Helicopter Air Ambulance 
safety. This clarification is intended for Part 135 air carriers 
engaged in helicopter air ambulance operations, and Principal 
Inspectors with oversight responsibility for helicopter air ambulance 
operations.

DATES: Effective September 30, 2014.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For technical questions, contact 
Andrew C. Pierce, Air Transportation Division, Flight Standards 
Service, Federal Aviation Administration; telephone (202) 267-8238; 
email [email protected]. For legal questions contact Nancy Sanchez, 
Regulations Division, Office of the Chief Counsel, Federal Aviation 
Administration; telephone (202) 267-3073; email [email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On February 21, 2014, the FAA published a 
final rule entitled, ``Helicopter Air

[[Page 58673]]

Ambulance, Commercial Helicopter, and part 91 Helicopter Operations'' 
(79 FR 9932) (effective date delayed on April 21, 2014, at 79 FR 22012; 
final rule corrected at 79 FR 41125, July 15, 2014). In that final 
rule, the FAA addressed helicopter air ambulance operations and all 
commercial helicopter operations conducted under part 135. The FAA also 
established new weather minimums for helicopters operating under part 
91 in Class G airspace. In the February 21, 2014, final rule, the FAA, 
among other things, added Sec.  135.613 to Title 14, Code of Federal 
Regulations. Section 135.613, Approach/departure IFR transitions, 
describes the required weather minimums to transition into and out of 
the IFR environment, aiding in the transition from the minimum descent 
altitude on an instrument approach procedure, to the point of intended 
landing.

Background

    Copter Point-in-Space Instrument Approach Procedures with a final 
visual segment are designed to accommodate one of two types of visual 
transitions between the missed approach point (MAP) and the intended 
point of landing. The approach procedure may depict a visual transition 
noted as ``proceed visually'' or a visual transition noted as ``proceed 
VFR''. ``Proceed visually'' transition segments are designed with 
relatively short distances between the MAP and the intended landing 
site and are considered a continuation of the IFR procedure. ``Proceed 
VFR'' transition segments span longer distances and/or require turns 
from the final approach course toward a landing facility and therefore 
require commensurately greater ceilings and visibilities as defined 
within 14 CFR 135.613. The same may be said about departures from 
landing facilities to enter the IFR flight environment. Obstacle 
Departure Procedures (ODP) may provide takeoff minimum weather 
conditions for IFR departures from the landing site. Other landing 
facility departures that do not have published takeoff minimums on an 
ODP must observe higher ceiling and visibility minimums in accordance 
with 14 CFR 135.613.

Discussion

    The FAA received a summary of comments and input from associations 
and various operators in the helicopter air ambulance industry on the 
Helicopter Air Ambulance, Commercial Helicopter, and Part 91 Helicopter 
Operations final rule. The summary paper was prepared by Helicopter 
Association International (HAI), American Medical Operators Association 
(AMOA) and the Association of Air Medical Services (AAMS). The various 
operators stated that the title of 135.613 is misleading and will cause 
confusion. The commenters explained that the title of the regulation 
references IFR transitions when it should be referencing VFR 
transitions.
    The FAA clarifies that the regulation addresses IFR clearances and 
visual or VFR transitions into or out of the IFR flight environment, 
thus the regulation correctly characterizes the transitions as elements 
of the IFR environment.
    Multiple industry commenters also voiced concerns regarding 
technical differences between the terms ``proceed visually'' and 
``proceed VFR'' as applied to transitions for instrument approaches and 
instrument departures. The following provides further explanation to 
assist industry in understanding what the difference is between the two 
terms.
    Copter Point-in-Space approaches provide an instrument descent 
along a predetermined course to safely allow IFR helicopter traffic to 
descend to a minimum descent altitude (MDA) prior to or upon arriving 
at MAP. At the MAP, the pilot must assess whether or not the flight can 
safely and legally proceed to the destination in the meteorological 
conditions present. Continuation of the flight beyond the MAP must be 
accomplished via a visual transition segment in accordance with the 
design of the Instrument Approach Procedure (IAP).
    There are two types of visual transition segments associated with 
continued flight beyond the MAP to one or more nearby landing 
facilities clustered around the MAP. The published approach procedure 
will indicate either ``proceed visually'' or ``proceed VFR'' along this 
transition segment. The presence of obstructions and terrain, combined 
with the distance between the MAP and the landing facility, determine 
the type of transition and the visibility required to legally and 
safely make the transition from the MAP to the destination.
    If a published approach depicts a ``proceed visually'' segment, 
that segment is conducted on a clearance under IFR and is not the 
subject of discussion under Sec.  135.613. This case is analogous to 
the visual transition from a MAP to a runway on an IFR approach, which 
is conducted visually. In the case of the ``proceed visually'' 
transition, the minimum required visibility will be indicated on the 
published procedure. Generally, this means the pilot should be able to 
see the destination heliport from the MAP. The minimum distance between 
the MAP and a destination landing facility for a ``proceed visually'' 
transition is 0.65 nautical miles. This minimum segment distance is 
intended to facilitate avoidance of adverse consequences of combined 
high descent rates and deceleration rates. The minimum visibility for 
the ``proceed visually'' transition segment is \3/4\ nautical mile, so 
that the pilot should always be able to visually acquire the point of 
intended landing before beginning the visual segment of the instrument 
approach. The required visibility is commensurately greater for 
``proceed visually'' transition segments that are longer than 0.65 
nautical miles.
    If a published approach depicts a ``proceed VFR'' segment, the 
visual segment must be conducted under VFR. 14 CFR 135.613 pertains to 
the ``proceed VFR'' transition when depicted on the published approach. 
If the distance between the MAP and the landing facility is less than 
or equal to one nautical mile, Sec.  135.613(a)(1) sets the minimum 
visibility to 1 statute mile. If the distance between the MAP and the 
intended landing site is between one nautical mile and three nautical 
miles, Sec.  135.613(a)(2) sets the day ceiling and visibility 
requirements to 600' and 2 nautical miles, and sets the night ceiling 
and visibility requirements to 600' and 3 nautical miles. If the 
distance between the MAP and the intended landing site is greater than 
three nautical miles, Sec.  135.613(a)(3) requires the ceiling and 
visibility to meet either the helicopter air ambulance Class G VFR 
weather minimums shown in Table 1 of Sec.  135.609, or, if within Class 
B, C, D, or E airspace, to meet the weather minimums referenced in 
Sec.  135.205.
    With respect to instrument departures, Sec.  135.613(b) addresses 
only VFR to IFR transitions, not departures conducted under an IFR 
clearance with takeoff minimums published on an ODP. If a departing 
flight obtains an IFR clearance valid from lift off and weather meets 
or exceeds the published ODP takeoff minimums, the pilot can ``proceed 
visually'' under the IFR clearance to the Initial Departure Fix (IDF). 
In this case, there is no VFR segment, the published takeoff weather 
requirements are in effect, and Sec.  135.613(b) does not apply.
    If, however, the departing flight must lift off VFR and ``proceed 
VFR'' via an ODP to a point where an IFR clearance becomes effective or 
to a point where the IFR clearance may be obtained on the way to the 
IDF, Sec.  135.613(b)(1) applies. This requires a minimum visibility of 
1 nautical mile prior to lift off if the IDF is no more than 1 nautical

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mile away from the point of lift off. If the departure involves a VFR 
to IFR transition and does not meet the requirements of Sec.  
135.613(b)(1), (there is no ODP, and/or the IDF is more than 1 nautical 
mile from the point of lift off), the VFR weather minimums required by 
the class of airspace apply. If the flight is within Class G airspace, 
refer to Sec.  135.609; if it is within Class B, C, D, or E airspace, 
refer to Sec.  135.205.

    Issued in Washington, DC, on September 24, 2014.
Michael J. Zenkovich,
Deputy Director, Flight Standards Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-23250 Filed 9-29-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-13-P