New FAA Bill Targets Helo Operations
The recently enacted ‘‘FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012’’ places the agency on stable financial footing–at least through 2014–and also contains some important provisions for the helicopter industry. First, it requires the FAA Administrator, within one year, to design and conduct a study of mandating Part 135 helicopter ambulance providers to use night vision goggles. In addition, it places more restrictions on air tour operators. Operators conducting fewer than 50 air-tour flights per year over a national park had been exempt from the requirement of submitting an approved air-tour plan to the National Park Service (NPS). Now the NPS director can withdraw those exemptions as he sees fit and air-tour operators flying under the exemption must submit an annual report detailing their air tour activities during the previous year. Air-tour operators may enter into a voluntary agreement with the NPS as an alternative to an air tour management plan. The NPS may withdraw voluntary agreements at any time at its sole discretion. If this happens, tour operators can continue to fly under an interim authority until an air tour management plan is in effect. Finally, the act mandates the FAA Administrator study safety issues and “alternative lighting strategies” for wind turbines.