Helicopter Association International Statement on FAA Beyond Visual Line of Sight Aviation Rulemaking Committee Final Report

Helicopter Association International (HAI) reaffirms its opposition to the recommendations contained in the FAA Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) Final Report. The report, submitted to the FAA on March 10 and now posted on the FAA website, proposes several recommendations to the agency that, if implemented, will compromise flight safety for low-altitude National Airspace System (NAS) operators.

“We are grateful to have been a part of the ARC’s efforts but are ultimately unable to support the recommendations of the report, as they will greatly increase risk to current airspace operators,” says James Viola, president and CEO of HAI.

Of particular concern are recommendations that attempt to compensate for the inability of some BVLOS uncrewed aircraft systems (UASs) to detect certain other aircraft by essentially excusing them from foundational see/detect-and-avoid responsibilities established in FAA regulations (14 CFR § 91.113). Additionally, those same recommendations attempt to deflect all responsibility and liability to crewed operators by providing BVLOS UASs an unjustified and blanket “right-of-way” authority over aircraft they are unable to detect.

“Altering the right-of-way hierarchy is not, and never should be, a mitigation for an unmanned system’s inability to detect other aircraft in the airspace,” adds Viola.

Another major issue with the report recommendations centers on the attempt to establish “shielded areas” that would essentially create flight corridors within 100 feet, vertically and laterally, of any “obstacle or critical infrastructure.” This recommendation calls for UASs to have right-of-way over all other aircraft in these areas, but it intentionally fails to recommend that UASs have detect-and-avoid capability for the aircraft they can reasonably expect to encounter. This creates major safety issues for utility, patrol, construction and agriculture operators that conduct tens of thousands of operations in this airspace annually.

HAI is an industry leader in support of safe and effective integration of UASs and fully supports the advancement of BVLOS operations into the NAS. HAI also fully recognizes the breadth and complexity of the issues with which the FAA must contend. As the leading industry association representing the rotorcraft community (crewed and uncrewed), HAI looks forward to working with industry members and the FAA to inform the development of safe and sensible means to achieve BVLOS operations, with full consideration of all NAS operators and a focus on aviation safety that the BVLOS ARC Final Report recommendations fail to achieve.

“We applaud the FAA for their efforts to assemble such a diverse cross section of industry to serve on the ARC,” notes Viola. “But we also must recognize that the ARC membership did not achieve an adequate balance of manned versus unmanned representation.”

To view the FAA BVLOS ARC Final Report, visit https://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/rulemaking/committees/documents/media/UAS_BVLOS_ARC_FINAL_REPORT_03102022.pdf.