Lakewood, Colo. – As of today, all newly manufactured helicopters are required to be built with safer fuel systems. An amendment included in the five-year authorization for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires all newly manufactured helicopters to comply with recommendations from the Rotorcraft Occupant Protection Working Group within 18 months. Additionally, the legislation requires the 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 is long overdue and too many people have been killed or badly injured as a result of this more than 20-year old loophole. But going forward, this legislation will significantly reduce the risk of post-crash fires and help save lives,” said Perlmutter. “I want to thank Chris Vanderveen at 9NEWS (KUSA) for his tireless reporting on this issue, the advocacy of Karen Mahany on behalf of her late husband, Patrick, and Rep. Jared Polis along with several of my colleagues in Congress who were instrumental in getting this done.”
Military helicopters have been built using crash resistant fuel systems dating back to the 1970s. However, the FAA’s 1994 fuel system standards only required 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% of those have been built with crash resistant fuel systems. There have been at least 175 post-crash fires resulting in at least 80 deaths due to those fires since the standard was published in 1994.
Perlmutter and Polis introduced legislation and began pushing the FAA to take action following the July 2015 Flight for Life helicopter crash in Frisco, Colorado which killed pilot Patrick Mahany and left flight nurse Dave Repsher with burns on more than 90 percent of his body. The effort to fix the loophole has been covered extensively by Chris Vanderveen at 9NEWS (KUSA) since 2015.
The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 was signed into law today and passed the House and Senate in recent weeks.