WASHINGTON (CN) – In view of the increase in fatal helicopter air ambulance accidents from 2002 to 2008, the Federal Aviation Administration has proposed additional requirements for commercial helicopter operations.
The proposal includes equipment requirements, pilot training, and alternate airport weather minimums.
The air ambulance industry is relatively new, has grown fast, and has operations that vary significantly. A crew also may be called upon day or night, in good or bad weather, in unfamiliar terrain with obstacles, and in hurried circumstances in which pilots may take more risks when calculating whether it is safe to fly.
The proposal would require training and equipment to accommodate conditions such as flat-light, whiteout and brownout, for flights over water, and for inadvertent flights into areas that require a switch from flying using vision to flying using instruments. Helicopters also would need to have systems that gave all flight condition data available.
The FAA proposes more stringent visual flight rules in uncontrolled airspace, but the ability to use instruments in areas in which an airport has no weather information. Air ambulances also must adhere to stricter weather requirements, once medical personnel are on board.
Air ambulance operators with 10 or more helicopters additionally would be required to establish and staff operations control centers, under the new rules.
The FAA also determined that other commercial helicopters should have some of the same requirements.
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