FAA Issues New Doors-Off Flight Rules

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The FAA is once again allowing doors-off operations on commercial flights carrying passengers as long as passenger restraint systems comply with its newly published rules. The administration issued an order prohibiting doors-off flights last March after a helicopter conducting a sightseeing flight crashed into New York City’s East River, killing all five passengers onboard. First responders said they struggled to release the passengers from the harnesses, which, according to the FAA, “may have prevented the passengers’ quick egress from the aircraft after the accident.”

Under the new rules, any supplemental passenger restraint systems (SPRS) must have quick-release capabilities. Passengers also have to be properly secured using FAA-authorized restraints at all times. In addition, operators now need an FAA Letter of Authorization (LOA) to use an SPRS. Requesting a LOA includes filling out an online form and submitting a YouTube video demonstrating the restraint’s release method. Qualifying systems “must not require the use of a knife to cut the restraint, the use of any other additional tool, or the assistance of any other person … [and] must not require passenger training beyond what would be provided in a preflight briefing.”

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