Thursday, October 29, 2015
Does the FAA Get the Drone Threat to Helos?
Anyone who doubted the FAA’s appreciation of threats posed by small drones to safe helicopter flight may find fuel for added skepticism in the members of the agency’s new task force. Of the 25 groups with representatives named today to the task force on how to create a registry of small unmanned aircraft systems, only one—Helicopter Assn. International—is focused on rotary-wing issues. The International Assn. of Chiefs of Police (IACP) is on the task force. Its representative, Mike Fergus, is a tech guru for the association and staff advisor to its aviation committee. But he is not a helicopter guy (and IACP members are as much users, or potential users, of small drones as they are of helicopters). The task force includes representatives of eight outfits seeking greater use of small drones (such as Amazon, Google and Walmart), four drone manufacturers and three drone trade associations. The Air Line Pilots Assn. (ALPA) is the only group with two members named to the task force, and Amazon Prime Air’s representative is a former ALPA first vice president. Eight aviation trade groups have members on the task force, some of which have helicopter interests (such as the Aerospace Industries Assn., Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assn., General Aviation Manufacturers Assn. and National Business Aviation Assn.). But most of the trade groups work mainly on fixed-wing issues. Missing from the task force are the Air Medical Operators Assn., Airborne Law Enforcement Association, Assn. of Air Medical Services and the National Emergency Medical Service Pilots Assn. Given the fact their members (and electronic newsgathering pilots and flight instructors) spend much time flying in the airspace where small drones are proliferating—and opposed to fixed-wing flights through it on takeoff and departure—their participation in the task force’s deliberations might be useful. Those groups and pilots can provide input to the task force here. But don’t tarry. The task is charged with making its recommendations to the FAA by Nov. 20.