Use higher weather minimums when identifying an alternate airport in a flight plan. Require that pilots are tested to handle flat-light, whiteout, and brownout conditions and demonstrate competency in recovery from an inadvertent encounter with instrument meteorological conditions. In addition, under the new rule, all air ambulance operators are required to: Equip with Helicopter Terrain Awareness and Warning Systems (HTAWS). Equip with a flight data monitoring system within four years. Establish operations control centers if they are certificate holders with 10 or more helicopter air ambulances. Institute pre-flight risk-analysis programs. Ensure their pilots in command hold an instrument rating. Ensure pilots identify and document the highest obstacle along the planned route before departure. Comply with Visual Flight Rules (VFR) weather minimums, Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) operations at airports/heliports without weather reporting, procedures for VFR approaches, and VFR flight planning. Conduct the flight using Part 135 weather requirements and flight crew time limitation and rest requirements when medical personnel are on board. Conduct safety briefings or training for medical personnel. This is a landmark rule for helicopter safety and a long time in the making, said John Morris Jr., M.D., former medical director for LifeFlight, associate chief of staff for the Vanderbilt Health System and chief medical officer for the Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network. Morris, who is recognized for his expertise in air medical programs, was part of a seven member panel of experts that reviewed helicopter utilization and protocols after the Sept. 28, 2008, crash of a Maryland State Police helicopter that killed four people. That year proved to be the deadliest year on record with five helicopter accidents that claimed 21 lives. The FAA examined helicopter air ambulance accidents from 1991 through 2010 and determined 62 accidents that claimed 125 lives could have been mitigated by the new rule.
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