[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 212 (Monday, November 3, 2014)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 65139-65140]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-26052]



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Rules and Regulations
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Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 212 / Monday, November 3, 2014 / 
Rules and Regulations

[[Page 65139]]



DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Aviation Administration

14 CFR Part 135

[Docket No.: FAA-2014-0502; Amdt. No. 135-131]
RIN 2120-AK49


Departing IFR/VFR When Weather Reporting Is Not Available; 
Confirmation of Effective Date

AGENCY: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT.

ACTION: Direct final rule; confirmation of effective date.

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SUMMARY: This action confirms the effective date of the direct final 
rule published on July 28, 2014, and responds to the comments received 
on that direct final rule. The rule permits the pilot in command of a 
helicopter air ambulance to assess the weather at a departure point 
where current weather observations are not available and allows the 
pilot to depart if the observed ceiling and visibility is greater than 
certain weather minimums. This action will allow a pilot to utilize the 
minimum takeoff visibilities depicted in a published obstacle departure 
procedure, or in the absence of such a procedure, when the pilot 
observed ceiling and visibility is greater than the minimum ceiling and 
visibility limitations required by specific helicopter air ambulance 
rules. This change to the current regulation will permit helicopter air 
ambulance flights to enter the National Airspace System (NAS) under 
Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) when visibilities and ceilings are below 
Visual Flight Rules (VFR), thus increasing the safety of the flight.

DATES: The direct final rule published July 28, 2014 (79 FR 43619) will 
become effective on April 22, 2015.

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

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For technical questions concerning 
this action, contact Andrew C. Pierce, Air Transportation Division, 135 
Air Carrier Operations Branch, AFS-250, Federal Aviation 
Administration, 800 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20591; 
telephone 202-267-8238; email andy.pierce@faa.gov.
    For legal questions concerning this action, contact Nancy Sanchez, 
AGC-220, Federal Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Avenue SW., 
Washington, DC 20591; telephone 202-267-7280; email 
nancy.sanchez@faa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    On February 21, 2014, the FAA published a final rule titled 
Helicopter Air Ambulance, Commercial Helicopter, and Part 91 Helicopter 
Operations (79 FR 9932, February 21, 2014). In that final rule, the FAA 
amended its regulations to revise the helicopter air ambulance, 
commercial helicopter, and general aviation helicopter operating 
requirements. In particular, the FAA added new testing and checking 
requirements for pilots operating rotorcraft under part 135. 
Subsequently, the FAA determined that the compliance date of April 22, 
2014, originally included in the February 21, 2014, final rule did not 
provide an adequate amount of time for affected certificate holders to 
implement the new requirements. On April 21, 2014, the FAA published a 
final rule in the Federal Register extending the effective date of the 
February 21, 2014, final rule from April 22, 2014, to April 22, 2015 
(79 FR 22009, April 21, 2014).
    One of the new provisions in the February 21, 2014, final rule, 
Sec.  135.611, allows helicopter air ambulance (HAA) 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 nautical miles of the 
destination landing area and meet other pilot and equipment 
requirements. The February 21, 2014, final rule did not provide a means 
for HAA flights with IFR clearances to depart from airports not served 
with current weather observation reports. The language in the February 
21, 2014, rule did not allow a pilot to utilize the minimum takeoff 
visibilities depicted in published obstacle departure procedures (ODP) 
when these are available. As a result, IFR capable departing flights 
were not able to gain direct access into the IFR system when weather 
conditions are worse than the Class G VFR minimums published in Sec.  
135.609, but are better than or equal to the published ODP takeoff 
minimums when the ODP depicts a ``proceed visually'' transition to the 
Initial Departure Fix (IDF).
    To address this circumstance, on July 28, 2014, the FAA published a 
direct final rule to permit the pilot in command of a helicopter air 
ambulance to assess the weather at a departure point where current 
weather observations are not available and allows the pilot to depart 
if the observed ceiling and visibility is greater than certain weather 
minimums (79 FR 43619, July 28, 2014). This action also allows a pilot 
to utilize the minimum takeoff visibilities depicted in a published 
ODP, or in the absence of such a procedure, when the pilot observed 
ceiling and visibility is greater than the minimum ceiling and 
visibility limitations required by specific helicopter air ambulance 
rules. This change to the regulations permits helicopter air ambulance 
flights to enter the NAS under IFR when visibilities and ceilings are 
below VFR, thus increasing the safety of the flight.

Discussion of Comments

    The FAA received three comments to the direct final rule from two 
individuals and a comment from Helicopter Association International 
(HAI), regarding a clarification of terms related to ``proceed VFR'' 
vs. ``proceed visually'' and requested clarity on the required 
visibility for transition to the ODP. In response, the FAA published a 
Clarification of the Final Rule, which specifically explains the 
difference between the two terms, how they relate to the ODP and 
transition to the IDF, as well as the FAA's intent (79 FR 58672, 
September 30, 2014). The FAA will make no changes to the Final Rule and 
has concluded that the Clarification of the Final Rule will address any

[[Page 65140]]

questions about the obstacle departure procedure and terms used in the 
Final Rule.

Conclusion

    After consideration of the comments submitted in response to the 
direct final rule, the FAA has determined that no further rulemaking 
action is necessary and believes that the Clarification of the Final 
Rule published September 30, 2014, will clarify any questions about the 
ODP and terms used in the Final Rule; therefore, amendment 135-131 
remains in effect.

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/.

    Issued under authority provided by 49 U.S.C. 106(f), 44701(a), 
and 44703 in Washington, DC, on October 29, 2014.
Lirio Liu,
Director, Office of Rulemaking.
[FR Doc. 2014-26052 Filed 10-31-14; 8:45 am]
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