Depending on your aircraft and its operation, you may be required to have a life raft(s) with rated capacity and buoyancy for all of your passengers. The FAA now requires a life raft on-board for flights over 50 miles overwater operations for Parts 121, 125 and 135 aircraft and for Part 91.501 over 100 miles overwater. And when traveling internationally, different regulations like the ICAO or Canadian regulations may additionally require one. Even if not mandated, large bodies of water, like lakes are an unforgiving environment, with hypothermia being a constant threat. For all aircraft, including Part 91 General, a life raft is the best protection from the elements when going further than gliding distance from land.
Whether required or just to ensure peace of mind, wading through the different regulations for your aviation life raft can be complicated. We want to make it easier for you.
Aviation life rafts are approved per FAA TSO-C70a, separating two life raft groups, Type I—for use in any category aircraft and Type II—for use in non-transport category aircraft. This regulation outlines the minimum standards for a life raft through three categories:
- Materials and Workmanship
- Use of materials that meet FAA standards for flammability, tear strength, seam strength, coat adhesion of coated fabrics, canopy waterproofness, and protection of packed raft.
- Necessary Design Elements
- Be rated for capacity and measured buoyancy
- Inflation system arranged to not interfere with boarding or prevent other chambers from being filled
- Canopy either attached or packed
- Water pockets providing capsize resistance
- Boarding Aids
- Type 1 requires 2 boarding aids at opposing ends
- Type 2 requires 1 boarding aid
- Righting Aid for non-reversible rafts
- Lifeline around the perimeter
- Grasp lines in the raft
- Constructed from a highly-visible color
- Automatically activated survivor light
- Required Equipment
- Mooring line
- Parachute rip cord for inflation
- Sea anchor
- Heaving trailing line
- Manual inflation valves
- Carrying case meeting flammability requirements
- Case tie-downs
FAA TSO-C70a stipulates the bare minimum for a safe life raft, yet there are so many more variables that go into your actual purchase.
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