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DOT/FAA RIN: 2120-AJ53 Publication ID: Fall 2011 
Title: +Air Ambulance and Commercial Helicopter Operations; Safety Initiatives and Miscellaneous Amendments 
Abstract: This rulemaking would change equipment and operating requirements for commercial helicopter operations, including many specifically for helicopter air ambulance operations. This rulemaking is necessary to increase crew, passenger, and patient safety. The intended effect is to implement National Transportation Safety Board, Aviation Rulemaking Committee, and internal FAA recommendations. 
Agency: Department of Transportation(DOT)  Priority: Other Significant 
RIN Status: Previously published in the Unified Agenda Agenda Stage of Rulemaking: Final Rule Stage 
Major: No  Unfunded Mandates: No 
CFR Citation: 14 CFR 1; 14 CFR 135; 14 CFR 91 
Legal Authority: 49 USC 106(g); 49 USC 1155; 49 USC 40101 to 40103; 49 USC 40120; 49 USC 41706; 49 USC 41721; 49 USC 44101; 49 USC 44106; 49 USC 44111; 49 USC 46306; 49 USC 46315; 49 USC 46316; 49 USC 46504; 49 USC 46506; 49 USC 46507; 49 USC 47122; 49 USC 47508; 49 USC 47528 to 47531 
Legal Deadline:  None

Statement of Need: Since 2002, there has been an increase in fatal helicopter air ambulance accidents. The FAA has undertaken initiatives to address common factors that contribute to helicopter air ambulance accidents, including issuing notices, handbook bulletins, operations specifications, and advisory circulars (ACs). This rule would codify many of those initiatives, as well as several NTSB and part 125/135 Aviation Rulemaking Committee recommendations. In addition, the House of Representatives and the Senate introduced legislation in the 111th Congress and in earlier sessions that would address several of the issues raised in this rulemaking.

Summary of the Legal Basis: This rulemaking is promulgated under the authority described in 49 U.S.C. 44701(a)(4), which requires the Administrator to promulgate regulations in the interest of safety for the maximum hours or periods of service of airmen and other employees of air carriers, and 49 U.S.C. 44701(a)(5), which requires the Administrator to promulgate regulations and minimum standards for other practices, methods, and procedures necessary for safety in air commerce and national security.

Alternatives: Alternative One: The alternative would change the compliance date from 3 years to 4 years after the effective rule date to install all required pieces of equipment. This would help small business owners cope with the burden of the expenses because they would be able to integrate these pieces of equipment over a longer period of time. This alternative is not preferred because it would delay safety enhancements. Alternative Two: The alternative would exclude the HTAWS unit from this proposal. Although this alternative would reduce annualized costs to small air ambulance operators by approximately 12 percent and the ratio of annualized cost to annual revenue would decrease from a range of between 1.76 percent and 1.88 percent to a range of between 1.55 percent and 1.65 percent, the annualized cost would still be significant for all 35 small air ambulance operators. The alternative not only does not eliminate the problem for a substantial number of small entities, but also would reduce safety. The HTAWS is an outstanding tool for situational awareness in all aspects of flying, including day, night, and instrument meteorological conditions. Therefore the FAA believes that this equipment is a significant enhancement for safety. Alternative Three: The alternative would increase the requirement of certificate holders from 10 to 15 helicopters or more that are engaged in helicopter air ambulance operations to have an Operations Control Center. The FAA believes that operators with 10 or more helicopters engaged in air ambulance operations would cover 66 percent of the total population of the air ambulance fleet in the U.S. The FAA believes that operators with 15 or more helicopters would decrease the coverage of the population to 50 percent. Furthermore, complexity issues arise and considerably increase with operators of more than 10 helicopters. All alternatives above are not considered to be acceptable by the FAA in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 603(c).

Anticipated Costs and Benefits: The FAA is currently developing costs and benefits.

Risks: Helicopter air ambulance operations have several characteristics that make them unique, including that they are not limited to airport locations for picking up and dropping off patients, but may pick up a person at a roadside accident scene and transport him or her directly to a hospital. Helicopter air ambulance operations are also often time-sensitive. A helicopter air ambulance flight may be crucial to getting a donor organ or critically ill or injured patient to a medical facility as efficiently as possible. Additionally, patients generally are not able to choose the helicopter air ambulance company that provides them with transportation. Despite the fact that there are unique aspects to helicopter air ambulance operations, they remain, at their core, air transportation. Accordingly, the FAA has the responsibility for ensuring the safety of these operations.

Timetable:
Action Date FR Cite
NPRM  10/12/2010  75 FR 62640 
NPRM Comment Period End  01/10/2011   
Final Rule  07/00/2012   
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Required: Yes  Government Levels Affected: None 
Small Entities Affected: Businesses  Federalism: No 
Included in the Regulatory Plan: Yes 
RIN Information URL: www.regulations.gov   Public Comment URL: www.regulations.gov  
RIN Data Printed in the FR: Yes 
Agency Contact:
Alberta Brown
Air Transportation Division
Department of Transportation
Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Avenue SW. ,
Washington, DC 20591
Phone:202 267-8321

 
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