On February 21, 2014 the FAA published a final rule updating the equipment and operational standards for helicopters. This final rule addresses Helicopter Air Ambulances, Commercial Helicopters, and Part 91 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.” –Excerpt from the FAA Final Rule
The new rules include some new equipment requirements for rotorcraft operated under Part 135 (including those that have been redefined as 135 operations by the new rule such as air ambulances). In addition to operators, this will impact distributors and suppliers supporting the rotorcraft marketplace.
The new rules regarding equipment include but are not limited to:
- Each rotorcraft will be required to be equipped with a radio altimeter (section 135.160);
- 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 (section 135.168);
- Helicopter air ambulances must be equipped with helicopter terrain awareness warning systems (HTAWS) (section 135.605);
- Helicopter air ambulances must be equipped with a flight data monitoring system (section 135.607);
- Requires each helicopter air ambulance operator to establish and document, in its operations manual, an FAA-approved preflight risk analysis (section 135.617); and
- Requires safety briefings or training for helicopter air ambulance medical personnel (section 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.
SWITLIK Survival Products is paying the most attention to Section 135.168 which addresses the requirements for additional safety equipment when operating over water.
According to the information laid out in section 135.168, after April 24, 2017 no person may operate a rotorcraft beyond autorotational* distance from the shoreline** unless it carries the following equipment:
- An approved life preserver equipped with an approved survivor locator light for each occupant of therotorcraft.
- 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 § 135.601(b)(1), when wearing a life preserver would be inadvisable for medical reasons.
- An approved and installed 406 MHz emergency locator transmitter (ELT) with 121.5 MHz homing capability.
* Autorotational distance refers to the distance a rotorcraft can travel in autorotation as described by the 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.
Now that all passengers and crew are required to wear an FAA approved life vest at all times during transit over water beyond the rotorcraft’s autorotational distance, it is going to be all the more important to consider comfort when purchasing your life vest.
SWITLIK’s selection of constant-wear life vests has a superior advantage in comfort and durability over their competition. Each vest is FAA Approved and specifically designed for constant wear in the seated position in your helicopter or fixed wing aircraft. The vests allow for full range of motion and fit well with harnesses and other required gear. The vests are so comfortable you'll forget you're wearing them!
For More information on SWITLIK's FAA lifevest products visit http://www.switlik.com/aviation today.
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