FAA mandate, Part 135.607, haa, air ambulance, helicopter, regulations, flightcell dzmx

Just Focus on the Flying

By Rob Neil

If you are involved with Helicopter Air Ambulances (HAA’s) in the USA there is a whole lot more to think about now. At  the end of April an amendment to Part 135 (Subpart L—Helicopter Air Ambulance Equipment, Operations, and Training Requirements) came into force. This mandate has a significant impact on how helicopters used in Helicopter Air Ambulance services must be equipped.

Part 135.607 now requires every helicopter in air ambulance operations to be equipped with an approved flight data monitoring system (FDMS) capable of recording flight data performance.

The new requirement, while it is not a surprise (in 2015, FAA Advisory Circular AC 135-14B set out what would be required of an FDMS) might appear daunting to operators because, as they know only too well, introducing any new piece of electronic equipment to an aircraft can pose all manner of technical and compliance challenges—with costs usually increasing in exponential proportion!

The list of “nice-to-have” capabilities specified in AC 135-14B is extensive but the “must haves are less daunting”. You must at least provide continually updated GPS positioning (latitude/longitude); barometric altitude; and date and time of recording.

The ideal FDMS described in the Circular would effectively provide similar functionality to a full flight data recorder (FDR), and could include data on such things as heading, speeds, pitch, roll, yaw, engine parameters, main rotor RPM, ambient acoustic audio, radio ambient audio, and crew communication, among others.

Whatever system is fitted—on top of the myriad of top-grade aeronautical and dedicated air ambulance equipment already required—it must be mutually compatible without impacting any of the other equipment on board!

The good news for HAA operators—already coping with constantly changing training, oversight and management requirements—is that they need not throw their hands in the air in frustration at the latest technical and certification requirements for an all-singing, all-dancing FDMS; the work has already been done for them in the form of the Flightcell DZMx. The DZMx not only meets all of the FAA’s “must have” expectations and technical requirements, but also provides some of the “nice to haves” in AC 135-14B’s comprehensive shopping list.

Well before AC 135-14B was even written, the Flightcell DZMx was developed independently to meet (and in some cases exceed) the most stringent certification standards and it has since been well-established in service to provide exactly the kinds of flight safety benefits intended by the new Part 135 requirements.

Having been designed from the start to work seamlessly with all standard avionics, the night-vision-compatible DZMx enables HAA operators to focus on their core business—and safety—by providing what almost amounts to “plug-and-play” compliance with Part 135’s new FDMS requirements. Part of Flightcell’s ethos has always been to add efficiency and safety without the stress and difficulty of re-engineering a whole airframe.

The inclusion of WiFi and Bluetooth in the DZMx’s virtual arsenal of safety and communication tools is yet another bonus for operators that goes well beyond the minimum requirements.

Furthermore, if integrated with electronic monitoring systems that capture engine and transmission health and performance parameters, the DZMx not only meets the new safety requirements of the new rules, but also can help operators increase component life and reduce maintenance costs.

If simplicity of fit, compatibility, minimum cost, ease of use, reliability and maximum efficiency are on an HAA operator’s list of requirements for a new FDMS, the Flightcell DZMx ticks every box; Flightcell takes care of all the “technical stuff”—inexpensively and efficiently—leaving operators and their crews to take care of the flying.