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U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s amendment to require all newly manufactured helicopters be built with safer fuel systems was successfully adopted in the U.S. House of Representatives on April 26.
The legislation requires all newly manufactured helicopters comply with the recommendations from the Rotorcraft Occupant Protection Working Group within 18 months.
Additionally, the legislation requires the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to expedite certification of retrofit kits to improve fuel system crashworthiness and to publish a bulletin for helicopter owners and operators which includes available retrofits and urges their installation.
“This legislation closes a loophole that has existed for more than 20 years. By ensuring all newly manufactured helicopters meet today’s safety standards, we can significantly reduce the risk of post-crash fires and prevent needless injury or death,” said Perlmutter.
“This legislation is long overdue and I plan to work with my colleagues in the Senate to ensure this is signed into law as soon as possible.”
The amendment will be included in H.R. 4, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, which is expected to pass the House.
Perlmutter, along with fellow Colorado Congressman U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (CO-02), first introduced the legislation following the July 2015 Flight for Life helicopter crash in Frisco, Colorado.
“I am particularly proud of this amendment because it was shepherded by Karen Mahany, a community member who took action after she lost her husband — Patrick Mahany — in a horrific crash in Frisco,” said Polis. “It is our shared hope that this amendment will save lives. It should go without saying that Flight for Life helicopters, as well as other civilian helicopters, should be equipped with the highest safety standards available. Requiring crash-resistant fuel safety systems will save lives.”
Military helicopters have been built using crash resistant fuel systems dating back to the 1970s. However, the FAA’s 1994 fuel system standards only require new helicopter designs certified after 1994 to comply with these standards.
As a result of this loophole, over 4,700 helicopters have been built since 1994 and only 15 percent of those have been built with crash resistant fuel systems. There have been at least 175 post-crash fires resulting in 80 deaths due to those fires since the standard was published in 1994.