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Monday, January 9, 2006

RACCA Wants More Flexibility In Flying Part 135 Planes

When it comes to equipment breakdowns, the Regional Air Cargo Carriers Association (RACCA) wants the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to draw a distinction between Part 135 cargo and passenger operations.

Long-standing FAA policy does not draw a distinction between a plane carrying boxes or one carrying passengers. If a plane has broken equipment, but it is still safe enough to be flown or ferried back to its maintenance base, it should be able to carry some boxes, said Stan Bernstein, RACCA's president.

RACCA has been working with the FAA to get relief from some requirements of the Master Minimum Equipment Lists (MMELs) for a variety of aircraft flown by Part 135 operators, said John Hazlet, vice president of safety and standards at Ameriflight. "We are working to get some relief where there aren't regulatory or practical reasons for not having items on the MMEL," he said.

The MMEL may require an illuminated clock for the co-pilot, for example. However, many Part 135 cargo-only flights do not require co-pilots, so the broken clock has no impact on the cargo aircraft's operations. There are "numerous" other items on various MMELs that may impact passenger operations, but do not hamper cargo operations, Hazlet said.

In some cases, if the item is not required by Part 135 regulations for the operation and is removed from the aircraft, the flight could proceed. However, current MMELs don't allow the item to be deferred - so either the item must be removed and appropriate record entries made, or the flight must be scrubbed. Hazlet said many of these items may be necessary for a passenger or instrument flight, for example, but not if the flight remains in visual weather conditions or only carries cargo.

Hazlet and RACCA are taking two approaches to getting the changes.

RACCA has been working for several months to get the FAA to consider "global changes" that apply to equipment on all Part 135 aircraft, regardless of the manufacturer. Hazlet said any such far-reaching policy changes would require the review of FAA's top administrators.

At the same time, Hazlet has been working with Raytheon Aircraft to get changes in the MMELs for its Beech 99s and 1900s. Raytheon is now reviewing suggestions from Hazlet and Ameriflight. If Raytheon finds merit in the suggestions, they will be presented to a Flight Operations Evaluation Board - a body composed of the FAA, the operators and the airframe manufacturers - to review the proposed changes. The FAA must then make the changes and published revised MMELs.

>>Contact: Stan Bernstein, RACCA, (508) 747-1430; John Hazlet, Ameriflight, (818) 980-5005.<<

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