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New rule issued to improve helicopter safety

Helicopter safety is an important issue in the United States as helicopter crashes can cause catastrophic and fatal injuries for those involved. Helicopter safety has been pushed to the front of the line by the Federal Aviation Administration. 

The FAA recently published their final rule for helicopter safety. The rule is meant to address the National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendations to the Department of Transportation on how to improve safety and reduce helicopter accidents

The new rule will impact helicopter operators as well as air ambulances. The rule imposes different flight rules and procedures as well as improvements to training and communications, and requires extra safety equipment on helicopters. 

The rule also discusses proper procedures for flying in adverse weather conditions, which must be implemented within the next 60 days. Other stipulations in the final ruling include:

  • Extra procedures offered for flying at night and when landing in different locations
  • Within three years, air ambulances need to have most up-to-date on-board technology
  • Within four years, air ambulances need to have flight data monitoring systems
  • Air ambulances must use pre-flight risk programs and use pilots with an instrument rating
  • Part 135 helicopters must have radio altimeters and be able to select “higher weather minimum when choosing an alternative airport”

The FAA and safety groups hope the changes issued in their final rule will lead to safer helicopter operations and flights. 

It is about time the FAA issue a new rule to make sure helicopters are equipped with the most recent technology and equipment to help them operate at night, in adverse weather conditions and when they have to land at a different airport or location. Hopefully the new rule will lead to fewer helicopter accidents and better safety in the sky. 

Source: Occupational Health & Safety, “FAA Issues Final Rule on Helicopter Safety,” Feb. 25, 2014

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