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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

FAA Deadline Looms for Heliports

By Rotor & Wing staff

An important opportunity to impact the future of heliport designs and regulatory standards will be lost at the end of this month. The comment period regarding FAA Advisory Circular, FAA-AC-150/5390-2C which seeks to rewrite heliport design criteria ends August 31st, and the proposed changes as currently written may have significant financial and operational impact on heliport owners and operators. A few of the principal proposed changes are in areas such as:

• Added definitions for design loads for static and dynamic load-bearing areas (LBA).
• Added guidance to provide adequate clearance between parking areas and taxi routes and within parking areas.
• Added guidance for minimum dimensions of curved approach/departure airspace.
• Added guidance for Touchdown/Positioning Circle (TDPC) Marking.
• Added guidance for Flight Path Alignment Guidance markings and lights.
• Added an appendix providing guidance for Emergency Helicopter Landing Facility Requirements (EHLF).
• Added FATO to FATO separation distance for simultaneous operations.
• Revised standards for size of “H” for GA heliports.
• Added Heliport Protection Zone to standards for hospital heliports.

With the obvious potential impact on hospital operations, the National EMS Pilots Association has taken an active and noteworthy role in gathering comments and providing an easy way for individual pilots to provide input from the end-user perspective. NEMPSA has created The Heliport Survey, which is available only through August 26 and is open to all helicopter pilots. The survey can be found at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/HeliportSurvey. More than 1,300 responses have been gathered to date. The information gathered from the survey will be compiled and presented to FAA and industry leaders August 31st.

NEMSPA has also sent a white paper to FAA Administrator J. Randolph Babbitt. The white paper, titled “Recommendation for the Utilization of an Independent Industry Task Force for the Review and Rewrite of the FAA/DOT Heliport Advisory Circular,” states the need for an independent task force composed of aviation industry leaders and relevant government agencies to assist with the rewrite efforts.

In his letter presenting the white paper to Administrator Babbitt, NEMSPA president Rex Alexander also called for the Vertical Flight Committee (FAA Order 1110.141) to be reinstated. Alexander feels that FAA and the International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) have achieved “monumental positive strides” with organizations partnering on rotorcraft and fixed-wing safety issues. Alexander wrote that the “expansion of the VFC is the next logical step in the process for insuring a solid foundation for the future.” Alexander stated that feedback he has received on the white paper has been “mixed.”
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