Safety

Proposed FAA Part 27 Revision Puzzles Some

By James T. McKenna | April 18, 2017
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A rescue swimmer assigned to Coast Guard Forward Operating Base Point Mugu is lowered from an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter onto a cliff during rescue training at Point Vicente Lighthouse March 21, 2017. The training helps keep aircrews proficient in the event of a real world cliff side rescue. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrea Anderson/Released)

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard

The FAA's proposed policy revision on certification of Part 27 rotorcraft systems and equipment has left some industry leaders puzzled over how the changes would make helicopters safer through technological solutions.

The deadline is April 20 for public comments on the proposed revisions, "Safety Continuum for Part 27 Normal Category Rotorcraft Systems and Equipment.” The FAA's Rotorcraft Directorate issued the draft document, which bears policy number PS-ASW-27-TBD, on March 16.

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The draft is an application of the FAA's Safety Continuum philosophy, which “recognizes a graduated scale for compliance with the certification standards, policies, and processes for installing systems and equipment” based on aircraft complexity and intended use. It is intended to make safety-enhancing technologies “become more affordable, and thus more prevalent” by making reliability and certification requirements for less complex and smaller rotorcraft less rigorous.

But industry leaders who have contacted R&WI said the proposed changes retain stringent certification requirements for systems that would help combat safety threats such as inadvertent (or unintentional) encounters with instrument meteorological conditions and have effectively killed the market for single-engine, IFR-capable helicopters. At the same time, these industry leaders say the proposed policy seems to focus on promoting technological solutions to the frequent accidents that afflict private flying, flight instruction and training, and agricultural missions.

“A vast majority of these accidents are due to loss of control, or collision with obstacles in visual conditions, causal factors for which technology will have limited value,” AHS International Executive Director Mike Hirschberg wrote in comments submitted by the association to the FAA.

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