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FAA Evaluating Single-Engine IFR Proposal

By Staff Writer | December 1, 2015

The FAA is evaluating an industry proposal to ease the path for certification of single-engine helicopters for operations under instrument flight rules and expects to respond in the next few months, it told R&WI last month.
The agency maintains that single-engine IFR helicopter certification is allowed today. But several industry leaders say the FAA’s requirements for redundancy of systems needed to support such certification are too stringent and make it economically unfeasible to pursue such approval (and the safety benefits that more IFR-capable helicopters would provide).

Four trade associations sent the joint proposal, called the Single-Engine IFR White Paper, to the FAA on Nov. 18. The four groups—the General Aircraft Manufacturers Assn., AHS International, the Aircraft Electronics Assn. and Helicopter Assn. International—seek “to restore affordable single-engine IFR within the current regulatory structure.”

They see single-engine IFR certification “as the first step toward a cultural shift in the helicopter community,” the groups said in a cover letter to FAA Rotorcraft Directorate Manager Lance Gant. “We look forward to working with the FAA to improve the future of rotorcraft safety through this initiative and anticipate productive dialogue in the coming months.”

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Specifically, the groups want the FAA to reverse a 1999 change to certification guidance that they say made standards for single-engine IFR helicopters more stringent at a time when the FAA had eased similar standards for airplanes.
The proposal’s transmission was held up by last-minute wrangling. The groups published the white paper on their respective websites in July with the goal of getting final comment from industry members and refining a consensus position on the proposal. (See “One-Engine IFR News Brief” in Feedback on page 8.)

Many in that process considered the proposal finalized in mid-September; the groups had aimed to formally submit it by Oct. 1. But one helicopter manufacturer—which participants in the process declined to name publicly—renewed concerns about specific points in the white paper.

This OEM said its concerns had not been addressed by revisions of the white paper and declined to endorse it. It was unswayed by the trade groups’ argument that the white paper was intended not as a final, accept-or-reject proposal, but rather as the start of discussion with the agency on revising current means of compliance for IFR certification under FAR Part 27.

Eventually, this OEM agreed not to stand in the way of dispatching the white paper, and it was sent to the FAA.

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