Vector Aerospace expects to receive FAA STC approval “soon” for its crash-resistant fuel tank for the Airbus Helicopters AS350/EC130 series.
The retrofittable fuel tank, developed in cooperation with Robertson Fuel Systems, features a number of safety enhancements, the company said. They include a self-sealing breakaway valve, vent system roll-over protection, a vent system flame arrestor, and a crash-resistant recessed sump drain valve, all aimed at increasing survivability for passengers and crew flying the thousands of AS350/EC130s already in service. Launch customers for the tank include Air Methods and WeatherTech Aviation. Vector said it is ready to begin installations immediately after the STC is granted.
Separately, the FAA has issued a Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin to notify all registered helicopter owners and operators of an available list of helicopters that are compliant with the crash-resistant fuel system (CRFS) safety standards of Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) § 27.952 or 14 CFR § 29.952. The list of helicopters that are compliant with the CRFS safety standards of 14 CFR § 27.952 and 14 CFR § 29.952 is available on the FAA’s website.
The FAA notes, “Operating a non-CRFS-compliant helicopter is not an airworthiness concern that would warrant airworthiness directive (AD) action under 14 CFR Part 39. However, operating a CRFS compliant helicopter may reduce the risk of post-crash fires and improve occupant survivability in an accident. On November 2, 1994, helicopter fuel system crash resistance became a regulatory requirement in Section 27.952 of 14 CFR Part 27 and in Section 29.952 of 14 CFR Part 29. The regulations apply only to newly type-certificated rotorcraft. Since the regulations were not retroactive, there was no requirement to incorporate them into the existing fleet.”
In November 2015, the FAA tasked the aviation rulemaking advisory committee (ARAC) with providing recommendations for improving rotorcraft occupant protection including post-crash fire protection improvements for both newly manufactured rotorcraft and the existing fleet. In January 2017, the FAA tasked the ARAC with providingrecommendations on implementing existing post-crash fire protection standards on new and existing rotorcraft. The ARAC will provide its recommendations for newly manufactured rotorcraft in January 2018. The final ARAC report that will include recommendations for the existing rotorcraft fleet is due in July 2018.