At What Price Safety?

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NPRM Affects Hundreds Of Sightseeing Businesses...

As the aviation industry is pummeled by a weak economy and staggered by the 9/11 hangover, it might seem like curious timing for the FAA to write regulations that it believes will cost $238 million over ten years and drive 700 enterprises out of at least a portion of their business. That's the agency's own assessment of the effect of National Air Tour standards it is proposing and which are at the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) stage. Comments will be taken until Jan. 20, 2004. The rule package, if adopted, would force Part 91 operators to upgrade to at least Part 135 status to continue sightseeing flights. "The FAA estimates that about 700 Part 91 operators currently providing sightseeing flights would elect to stop providing the service," the agency concludes in what it calls its "Business Closure Analysis." The document goes on to say, however, that sightseeing is a small part of their overall business, less than 10 hours per year, and that these operators would remain in business and obtain revenues elsewhere. It's all in the name of safety, of course, and a direct reaction to an NTSB report on the air tour industry published eight years ago. But Business AVflash's sister publication AVweb has been told by some of these small operators that they rely heavily on tourism flights for their business and they can't afford the equipment, documentation and procedures upgrades that moving up to Part 135 entails, which is estimated at $11,200 by the agency for each single-pilot aircraft. The agency admits the cost seems high, but it also says the savings, through improved safety, in bent metal and lives lost (assuming its projections are met) will be about $490 million over 10 years.