The FAA on Thursday published an expected notification in the Federal Register, announcing the formation of a working group to make recommendations regarding occupant protection for rotorcraft. HAI has told the FAA that the association would like to be a part of the working group, which is under the auspices of the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC).
According to the notice in the Federal Register, “[t]he Rotorcraft Occupant Protection Working Group will provide advice and recommendations to the ARAC on occupant protection rulemaking, including both initial certification and continued airworthiness. The basic concept of occupant protection is to give all occupants the greatest possible chance to egress an aircraft without serious injury after a survivable emergency landing or accident. While the number of U.S. helicopter accidents and the corresponding accident rate over the past 10 years have steadily decreased, during that same time period data associated with fatal helicopter accidents and fatalities remains virtually unchanged.”
The FAA promulgated a number of rules intended to increase occupant safety in the 1980s and 1990s. But those rules only apply to airframes that received their type certificates after 1994. Airframes type-certified before 1994 do not have to meet those requirements. So a brand-new 2015 aircraft built on a type certificate issued before 1994 is not currently required to meet the newer standards.
The new working group is tasked with:
- Performing a cost-benefit analysis for incorporating existing occupant protection standards for all newly manufactured rotorcraft
- Developing recommendations for how all or part of existing standards should be made effective for newly manufactured aircraft or proposing alternative performance-based regulations
- If the FAA accepts the initial recommendation report, making additional recommendations on incorporating rotorcraft occupant protection improvements and standards into the existing fleet.
The FAA has directed the working group to complete its work within 24 months.
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