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ON THE OTHER HAND . . . I have to confess that, up to this point, this


article has been a one-sided look at the detri- mental effects of the proposed new rules from the perspective of the HEMS provider. But, in order to suggest an alternative interpretation or, better yet, a feasible


re-write of these rules, we


the following language: "While a flight crewmember is assigned


to duty under § 135.271, that person may not be assigned to any other duties. Prohibited duties during a HEMES assignment include, but are not limited to, maintenance test flights, public relations flights, and administra- tive duties. NOTE: Inspectors should ensure that operators scheduling under § 135.271 have identified those procedures and policies in their operations manual." (FAA Order 8900.1, Volume 4, Chapter 5, Section 3 Air Ambulance Service Operational Procedures) But, HEMS providers routinely have a need


to use the on-duty crew to assist with mainte- nance functions when the assigned aircraft expe- riences any malfunction that requires reposition- ing, ground run-ups, or short test flights in order to expeditiously return the aircraft to service. It is also very common for the duty crew to reposi- tion the aircraft to locations near the hospital or other base in order to perform outreach training or community education on helicopter air med- ical operations. Such outreach training is a very important element of air medical services since it trains law enforcement, local health care person- nel, and other public and private organizations on the capabilities, limitations, and safety practices that are critical to providing safe and appropriate air medical transport services to the community. These "other duties" are provided by the on-duty crew without any need to extend or adjust either the flight hour limits or the duty period limits


ROTORCRAFTPROFESSIONAL


specified in FAR 135.271. Their effect on the flight and duty limits of the pilot and crew is pre- cisely the same as a patient transport flight would have, and it seems completely arbitrary to restrict an operator from performing these important functions. FAR 135.271(h) (1) then adds insult to injury


by requiring that: "(h) Each pilot must be given a rest peri-


od upon completion of the HEMES assign- ment and prior to being assigned any further duty with the certificate holder of— (1) At least 12 consecutive hours for an


assignment of less than 48 hours." This language essentially imposes a 12 hour


rest period requirement that trumps the 8 hour rest requirement specified in 135.271(d), (as well as the 10 hour requirement of 135.267 (d)), and begs the question of exactly what a "HEMES assignment" is, and to whom FAR 135.271 is intended to apply. The language suggests that it may be intended not so much for dedicated HEMS providers as for operators who may per- form air ambulance operations along with other kinds of commercial helicopter flying. Since air medical operators must declare in


their Operations Specifications whether they will schedule their crews under FAR 135.267 or 135.271, the vast majority elect to operate in accordance with 135.267 in order to avoid the onerous restrictions that 135.271 would impose on their crew scheduling and on their mainte- nance and outreach education activities.


42


must also consider the very difficult mandate that the FAA has to publish regulations that insure the safety of aviation operations for all involved without unduly hindering the operations them- selves. And, these rules also need to be phrased in language that will preclude the possibility of operators finding ambiguity or loopholes that could allow them to conduct operations or schedule aircrews in a manner that could result in unsafe circumstances due to crewmember fatigue. To address this concern, and since the primary issue at hand is the effect of the rules on air medical operations (and on the outcome for patients), the logical approach to take is to spec- ify parameters for duty period exceptions in the newly proposed changes to FAR Part 135 that will apply to air ambulance operations. At this time, the proposed change


to FAR 135.267


applies only to the flight hour limitation and does not address any need to exceed the 14 hour duty day which may arise in exceptional situations due to circumstances beyond the control of the pilot or the operator. In fact, the recommended change to 135.267 is spurious since it purports to require pilots to apply all time flown while medical per- sonnel are on board toward the maximum flight time allowed by 135.267. This is something that air medical programs already do, even though the FAA suggests otherwise in their discussion of the proposed changes. It


could be argued that the disparity


between the minimum 8-hour rest period for air- line pilots and the 10-hour rest period required for HEMS pilots is justified by the fact that the Part 121 operations involve two pilots, while the typical EMS helicopter is operated by a single pilot. But, the 14 hour limit applies to 2-pilot Part 135 operations also, and the issue here is not whether two fatigued pilots are better than one, but whether a pilot who has had significant opportunity for rest during his duty period should be


constrained from completing a life-saving


flight simply because doing so would result in his being airborne after more than 14 hours have elapsed since he clocked in.


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