Tuesday, November 24, 2015
FAA Survivability Focus Boosted by Air Med Move
The FAA’s new focus on improving helicopter occupant survivability got a boost this week with the declaration by the Air Medical Operators Assn. (AMOA) that its members are committed to installing crash-resistant fuel systems on both new and existing helicopters. Current FAA rules only require such systems on helicopters type certificated after October 1994, but the National Transportation Safety Board has found—and the FAA acknowledges—that about 85% of U.S.-registered helicopters don’t have such systems because their type certificates predate 1994. Under pressure from the NTSB, politicians and the media, the FAA on Nov. 5 launched the Rotorcraft Occupant Protection Working Group to look at means of increasing the percentage of helicopters with crash-resistant fuel systems and more crashworthy seats. AMOA, which represents 12 air medical operators (including the largest helicopter ones), now says it is working with Airbus Helicopters and Bell Helicopter to develop options for such systems on newly delivered aircraft and for retrofitting current fleets with them. The focus of AMOA’s safety initiatives, including ones on increased use of night vision goggles, flight data monitoring systems and flight simulators, has been on accident prevention. The move to equip crash-resistant fuel systems “is the first commitment to address crash survivability,” said the association’s chairman, Fred Buttrell. Buttrell also is president and CEO of Med-Trans, which operates about 70 helicopters from more than 60 bases in 21 U.S. states. Before the AMOA announcement, Air Methods had said it would upgrade its H125s and H130s with crash-resistant fuel systems as soon as they become available and that it is working with Airbus and a third-party vendor toward that goal.