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FAA proposes airport, runway and air ambulance safety proposals – October 31, 2010

As a firm uniquely qualified to handle Aviation related death and serious injury cases, the Padberg Corrigan Law firm finds the recent FAA safety proposals of interest.

In addition to announcing major gains in airport runway safety, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced this month two new proposals to improve safety while flying. New flight rules, procedures, equipment and training have been proposed for helicopter operators, including air ambulance services. The FAA has also proposed what they refer to as Safety Management Systems at certficated airports.

The FAA has noted a steady and significant decline in runway related accidents in the last decade. In 2000 there were 67 serious runway accidents. That number has dropped to 12 in 2009 and to 6 in fiscal 2010, which ended on Sept. 30. Of the six incursions in 2010, three involved commercial aircraft. It is believed the decline can be traced to an intensive effort to improve runway safety that the FAA launched several years ago. That effort included such things as the installation of new technology at airports, increased requirements for improved signage and markings at airports, and improved pilot training on runway conflict scenarios. The FAA and pilot groups have also conducted extensive outreach and training for general aviation pilots.

The FAA also proposed on October 7th, broad new rules for helicopter operators, including air ambulances. If these proposals are finalized, they would require stricter flight rules and procedures, improved communications and training, and additional on-board safety equipment. According to FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt: “We can prevent accidents by preparing pilots and equipping helicopters for all of the unique flying conditions they encounter. These new rules are designed to protect passengers, patients, medical personnel, and pilots.” While helicopter accidents did decline in 2005 and 2006, 2008 proved to be the deadliest year on record with six accidents that claimed 24 lives. Overall, from 1992 through 2009, 135 helicopter air ambulance accidents claimed 126 lives. From 1994 through 2008, there were also 75 commercial helicopter accidents (excluding air ambulances) that resulted in 88 fatalities.

The FAA also proposed this month requiring 553 airports in the U.S. certificated under Part 139 , to put into place safety management systems (SMS) for all airfield and ramp areas. SMS is a formal approach to managing an airport organization’s safety through four key components: safety policy, safety risk management, safety assurance, and safety promotion. The proposed airport safety management systems will help airports enhance safety by developing an organization wide safety policy; implementing methods to mitigate airport hazards; and analyzing and mitigating risks before they change airport procedures or infrastructure. The proposed rule requires that SMS be used for airport movement and non-movement areas which includes runways, taxiways, ramps, aircraft parking aprons, and fuel farms.

If you have questions regarding an aviation related injury or death please contact us. The Padberg & Corrigan Law Firm is uniquely qualified to represent families of individuals fatally injured in Missouri airplane accidents and helicopter accidents. Matt Padberg has been a pilot for over 25 years. His experience in training and flying aircraft provides detailed insight into the complications associated with aircraft crashes. That insight has helped make Matt Padberg one of the most recognized Aviation Accident Attorneys in the Midwest region.

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