Nearly 100 industry and government aviation leaders are gathering in Washington today and tomorrow in a bid to start developing a multi-year plan for improving weather, navigation and facilities aids for helicopter pilots.
The U.S. Helicopter Safety Team is convening the 2016 Infrastructure Summit to assess the current status of the aviation infrastructure at low altitudes and identify strategies for improving the safety of low-level and instrument flight rules (IFR) operations.
"We want to look at how we can improve the environment in which helicopter pilots operate," said Tom Judge, executive director of air ambulance operator LifeFlight of Maine and chair of the safety team's Infrastructure Working Group.
The group aims to develop "a strategic 10-year plan to integrate an enhanced and compatible low-level helicopter operations environment" into U.S. airspace.
Of the 90 or so individuals invited to the meeting were representatives of a number of FAA offices (or "lines of business"). These included officials of the Aircraft Certification Service's Rotorcraft Directorate, the Flight Standards Service, the Air Traffic and Airports organizations, the Office of Accident Investigation and Prevention and the agency's Aviation Weather Research team.
Summit organizers considered it critical to have all those lines of business represented in the infrastructure discussions, since each has responsibility for a portion of the low-level helicopter environment. Those discussions are scheduled to include weather, performance-based navigation, low-level airspace, heliports and IFR operations.
Other invited attendees included representatives of helicopter manufacturers and operators, aviation trade assns. and government agencies like the National Transportation Safety Board and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admin.