WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Reps. Ed Perlmutter (CO-07) and Jared Polis (CO-02) introduced the Helicopter Fuel System Safety Act to require all newly manufactured helicopters be built with safer fuel systems. The legislation requires within one year all newly manufactured helicopters comply with the recommendations from the Rotorcraft Occupant Protection Working Group which significantly reduces the risk of post-crash fires. 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.
“We have known for decades how to make helicopter fuel systems safer, yet we continue to allow new helicopters to be manufactured without crash resistant fuel systems,” said Rep. Perlmutter. “This legislation finally closes the loophole created in 1994 and ensures all newly manufactured helicopters meet the appropriate safety standards to prevent needless injury or death.”
“The technology for safer helicopters already exists, and is ready to equip Flight for Life and other civilian helicopters. It is past time we use it, and prevent further loss of life. As we approach the anniversary of the crash in Frisco, we have the ability to close a loophole and effect change now. First responders deserve to be protected as they attempt to save lives,” Polis said.
On July 3, 2015, a Flight for Life helicopter took off in Frisco, CO and seconds later crashed in a parking lot next to the local hospital. Experts have said the crash itself was largely survivable, but the post-crash fire contributed to the death of the pilot and severely burned the two flight nurses. 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 comply with these standards. As a result of this loophole, over 4,700 helicopters have been built since 1994 and only 15% of those have been built with crash resistant fuel systems. There have been at least 173 post-crash fires resulting in 78 deaths due to those fires since the standard was published in 1994.