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General Aviation Safety
On July 27, 2007, about 1246 mountain standard time, two electronic news gathering (ENG) helicopters, N613TV and N215TV, collided in midair while maneuvering in Phoenix, Arizona. The Eurocopter AS350B2 helicopters, from local channels 3 and 15, had been covering a police pursuit. N613TV, the channel 3 helicopter, was operated by KTVK-TV, and N215TV, the channel 15 helicopter, was operated by U.S. Helicopters, Inc., under contract to KNXV-TV. Each helicopter had a pilot-reporter and a photographer on board. The occupants on board both helicopters were killed, and the helicopters were destroyed by impact forces and postcrash fire. The helicopters were operating under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. No flight plans had been filed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.
TO THE FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION: Once standards for helicopter cockpit electronic traffic advisory systems are developed, as requested in Safety Recommendation A-09-04, require electronic news gathering operators to install this equipment on their aircraft. (Superseded by A-10-128)
Original recommendation transmittal letter:
Closed - Unacceptable Action/Superseded
Phoenix, AZ, United States
Midair Collision of Electronic News Gathering Helicopters KTVK-TV, Eurocopter AS350B2, N613TV, and U.S. Helicopters, Inc., Eurocopter AS350B2, N215TV
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status:
FAA (Closed - Unacceptable Action/Superseded)
Collision Avoidance, Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (Public Operators), Instruments
Safety Recommendation History
From NTSB Safety Recommendation Letter concerning the August 8, 2009 midair collision between a private plane and a helicopter near Hoboken, New Jersey. This letter is dated October 18, 2010. On April 17, 2009, the FAA stated that it would review existing certification standards for electronic traffic advisory systems and determine if additional standards for electronic traffic advisory systems installed on helicopters needed to be developed. The FAA also stated that, if additional standards were needed, they would be developed, and the agency would recommend that all ENG operators install electronic traffic advisory systems on their helicopters. On August 27, 2009, the NTSB stated that the FAA’s plan was responsive to Safety Recommendation A-09-04 but that, to meet the intent of Safety Recommendation A-09-05, the FAA must require electronic traffic advisory systems for ENG helicopters. Safety Recommendations A-09-04 and -05 were classified “Open—Acceptable Response,” pending the development of standards that address helicopter electronic traffic advisory systems and the establishment of a requirement for all ENG operators to install this equipment on their aircraft. On May 20, 2010, the FAA responded to Safety Recommendation A-09-04 and stated that it reviewed the current certification standards for electronic traffic advisory systems and determined that technical standard orders (TSO) already existed for these systems.22 The FAA also stated that the TSOs referenced several RTCA (formerly Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics) documents that provided minimum operational performance standards and guidance for implementing various traffic advisory systems and displaying traffic information in the cockpit. The FAA further stated that the existing certification standards adequately addressed the issues identified in Safety Recommendation A-09-04 and that no further actions regarding the recommendation were planned. The NTSB’s review of the TSOs found that they described only the minimum standards that all electronic traffic advisory systems must meet to be certified. The TSOs do not address specific standards for helicopter traffic advisory systems, as requested in Safety Recommendation A-09-04, or consider the different types of operations conducted by helicopters. Also, the current standards do not consider the limitations of those helicopter traffic advisory systems that depend on radar systems (such as TIS) to resolve distances that are less than 1/8 nm between aircraft. In addition, the current certification standards for electronic traffic advisory systems do not consider the potential for nuisance alerts during close-in operations, which can desensitize pilots to system warnings and thus decrease the effectiveness of the systems. When pilots fly closely enough to other aircraft to trigger the traffic alerting function of current traffic advisory systems, the traffic alerts may be disregarded by a pilot if such alerts occur frequently and the pilot is already aware of other aircraft operating in the area. Traffic alerts are triggered based on the assumption that certain parameters (ground track, ground speed, and rate of climb) would be maintained long enough for a traffic advisory system to estimate future positions of the aircraft. This assumption works well for those aircraft that are in stable flight with minimal maneuvering (for example, during en route flight). However, this assumption may not be appropriate when numerous aircraft are maneuvering in a congested VFR corridor (such as the Hudson River Class B exclusion area)23 or ENG aircraft are maneuvering within a relatively small area. The NTSB concludes that, because the FAA’s current TSOs for electronic traffic advisory systems do not distinguish between the different flight characteristics of helicopters and fixed-wing airplanes, the effectiveness of these systems aboard helicopters is limited. The NTSB further concludes that the traffic alerting function of helicopter electronic traffic advisory systems is limited because the parameters used to trigger alerts do not consider frequent maneuvering in congested areas, resulting in nuisance alerts. Therefore, the NTSB recommends that the FAA develop standards for helicopter cockpit electronic traffic advisory systems that (1) address, among other flight characteristics, the capability of helicopters to hover and to fly near other aircraft at lower altitudes, slower airspeeds, and different attitudes than fixed-wing airplanes; (2) reduce nuisance alerts when nearby aircraft enter the systems’ alerting envelope; and (3) consider the different types of operations conducted by helicopters, including those in congested airspace. Further, Safety Recommendation A-09-04 is reclassified “Closed—Unacceptable Action/Superseded,” and Safety Recommendation A-10-127 is classified “Open—Unacceptable Response.” In addition, Safety Recommendation A-09-05 focuses solely on helicopter ENG operations, but the use of helicopter electronic traffic advisory systems should be expanded beyond ENG operators to provide passenger revenue operations with the same safety benefit.24 The NTSB concludes that electronic traffic advisory systems installed on helicopters operated for passenger revenue flight would enhance a pilot’s capability to detect other aircraft operating in the same area by providing aural annunciations and visual displays of the traffic. Therefore, the NTSB recommends that, once standards for helicopter electronic traffic advisory systems are developed, as requested in Safety Recommendation A-10-127, the FAA require ENG operators, air tour operators, and other operators of helicopters used for passenger revenue flight to install this equipment on their aircraft. As a result of this new recommendation, Safety Recommendation A-09-05 is reclassified CLOSED -- ACCEPTABLE ACTION/ SUPERSEDED. A-09-5 is superseded by A-10-128.
The NTSB notes that the FAA is reviewing the current certification standards for electronic traffic advisory systems to determine whether additional standards are needed. Once the standards are updated, the FAA will recommend that all ENG operators install the necessary equipment on their aircraft. Although this plan is responsive to Safety Recommendation A-09-4, the NTSB points out that, to satisfy Safety Recommendation A-09-5, the FAA must require the recommended action. Pending the FAA’s development of standards that appropriately address helicopter cockpit electronic traffic advisory systems and the establishment of a requirement for all ENG operators to install the new equipment on their aircraft, Safety Recommendations A-09-4 and A-09-5 are classified OPEN -- ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.
Letter Mail Controlled 4/27/2009 2:52:43 PM MC# 2090266: - From J. Randolph Babbitt, Administrator: Once the certification standards for electronic traffic advisory systems for helicopters are established, we will recommend that all ENG operators install the equipment on their aircraft.
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