Effective August 26, helicopter air ambulance operators without certain equipment will be permitted to conduct IFR departure and approach procedures at airports and heliports that do not have an approved weather reporting source. The rule was adopted following an earlier notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM). The FAA received five comments in response to the NPRM, all of which supported the proposed amendment.
This rule applies to aircraft without functioning severe-weather-detection capability (airborne radar or lightning-strike detection equipment) when the pilot-in-command “reasonably determines” that the operation will not encounter severe weather at the destination, the alternate destination, or along the route of flight.
The rule further contains updates to address the transition from Area Forecasts that the National Weather Service currently provides to equivalent information from weather reports, forecasts, or any combination thereof. In addition, the rule amends the term ‘‘the published obstacle departure procedure’’ to ‘‘a published departure procedure.’’
Another issue the new rule resolves is the need for operators to apply for, or renew, temporary exemptions. Since the FAA established the requirement for air ambulance operators to use helicopters equipped with functioning severe-weather-detection equipment, the FAA has received 10 petitions for exemption from the requirement. Operators established in their petitions that an exemption would not adversely affect safety because they would not conduct operations if they expected severe weather.