The U.S. House of Representatives passed its long-awaited FAA reauthorization bill, which would renew the agency’s funding at $4.35 billion per year through 2023. The bill, which will now be sent to the U.S. Senate Commerce Science and Transportation Committee for approval, includes a requirement for all newly manufactured helicopters to feature fuel system configurations that were provided through recommendations provided by the Rotorcraft Occupant Protection Working Group within 18 months.
The fuel system requirement was included in the bill as the result of an amendment submitted by U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter. According to Perlmutter's statement on the amendment, the legislation would close a “a loophole that has existed for more than 20 years.”
"By ensuring all newly manufactured helicopters meet today’s safety standards, we can significantly reduce the risk of post-crash fires and prevent needless injury or death,” said Perlmutter.
The “loophole” Perlmutter refers to is a reference to the FAA’s requirement that all helicopters certified after 1994 be equipped with crash-resistant fuel tanks and other crash-resistant fuel system components. However, helicopters that are built according to production designs established prior to 1994 are exempt from featuring such equipment.
Perlmutter and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis first introduced the legislation following the July 2015 Flight for Life helicopter crash that occurred in Frisco, Colorado.
A 2014 NTSB review found that only 15% of the more than 4,700 newly manufactured helicopters since 1994 have included fuel systems that comply with 14 CFR 27.952 or 29.952.
“There have been at least 175 post-crash fires resulting in 80 deaths due to those fires since the standard was published in 1994,” the NTSB said.
According to congressional aide source confirmed by CNN, the Senate is expecting to have the legislation up for consideration by “May or June” and a long-term FAA reauthorization in place by August. The final version of the bill adopted by the Senate and signed into law by U.S. President Donald Trump will confirm whether the fuel system requirement is included.