US manufacturer trade body the American Helicopter Society (AHS) says that by modifying 20-year-old airworthiness standards, the US Federal Aviation Administration is merely updating its rulemaking to keep pace with advances in technology. Rhett Flater, AHS executive director, says: "The improvements in handling qualities and safety realised during the past 20 years will now be reflected in the agency's rulemaking concerning airworthiness requirements."

The manufacturers have been working with the FAA on the proposed new certification standards, Flater says. "Without exception, AgustaWestland, Bell, Boeing, Eurocopter and Sikorsky have participated in the development of this NPRM. I understand that EASA [European Aviation Safety Agency] has published a similar notice and that both agencies, the FAA and EASA, intend to co-ordinate the implementation of these changes," he says. "Another point worth mentioning is that this NPRM will largely impact only newly manufactured helicopters and not the legacy fleet of aircraft produced in the last 40 years."

Old helicopters, however, will remain a significant proportion of the world's operating fleet for many years to come, warns the AHS, which is a part of the reason why the industry has been developing a system for improving rotary-wing operational safety worldwide. Flater says: "Independently of this NPRM, the FAA, AHS International, the Helicopter Association International, the major airframe and engine manufacturers, as well as specialised operator associations, have created the International Helicopter Safety Team tasked with reducing the helicopter accident rate by 80% within 10 years."

Source: Flight International