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On January 4, 2009, about 1409 central standard time, a dual-engine Sikorsky S-76C++ helicopter, N748P, registered to and operated by PHI, Inc., departed controlled flight and crashed into marshy terrain about 7 minutes after takeoff. Both pilots and six passengers on board were fatally injured, and one passenger was seriously injured. The helicopter was substantially damaged. The helicopter departed Lake Palourde Base Heliport in Amelia, Louisiana, en route to the South Timbalier oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. No flight plan was filed with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)1 for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 135 air taxi flight, nor was one required.
TO THE FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION: Issue a certification policy to require that operators of helicopters with windshields with demonstrated bird-strike resistance not be permitted to replace those windshields with ones that have not been demonstrated to be resistant to bird strikes.
Original recommendation transmittal letter:
Closed - Reconsidered
Morgan City, LA, United States
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status:
FAA (Closed - Reconsidered)
Safety Recommendation History
You previously indicated that you can only require parts manufacturers to comply with standards at the amendment level that were in effect when the aircraft received its original type certification, not to meet original manufacturer’s design requirements. To satisfy this recommendation, you would need to amend 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 21.101(b), “Designation of Applicable Regulations.” We agree with your position that such an amendment would likely take a long time to be finished, would be difficult, would have an unpredictable result, and would therefore not be practical. Consequently, Safety Recommendation A-10-138 is classified CLOSED—RECONSIDERED.
The NTSB notes that the FAA requires parts manufacturers to comply with regulations at the amendment level in the product’s certification basis, not to meet original design requirements. Current airworthiness standards include bird strike requirements; however, because the type certification of the S-76++ model helicopter is at an amendment level that existed before the creation of birdstrike requirements, these higher standards do not apply to the aircraft. We remain concerned that aftermarket windshield suppliers are not required to perform, with a successful outcome, the same type of impact test demonstrated by the manufacturer’s windshield before an STC is granted. As a safety-of-flight issue has been clearly identified, it is imperative that the FAA seek the authority to require installation of components that meet a higher standard. Accordingly, pending the FAA’s indication that it will take such action, Safety Recommendation A-10-138 is classified OPEN—UNACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.
-From Tony Fazio, Director, Office of Accident Investigation and Prevention: The Board's response to our initial letter does not provide additional information. The Board expressed a concern that the original type certification of the Sikorsky S-76 (S-76) rotorcraft, for example, allows operators to equip their aircraft with windshields that are not required to demonstrate the same level of protection provided by the more recently installed impact-resistant windshields on the S-76 aircraft. The S-76 was certified before the effective date of 14 CFR 29.631, bird strike, thus the original windshield was not required to meet the rule. We do not require parts manufacturers to meet original design requirements, but to comply with regulations at the amendment level in the product's certification basis. To meet the Board's recommendation would require amending 14 CFR 21.101 (b), Designation of applicable regulations, which is not practical.
The FAA indicated that 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 21.101 requires design changes (such as a supplemental type certificate [STC]) to meet the type certification basis for the aircraft. The NTSB points out that Sikorsky tested and equipped S-76 helicopters with impact-resistant windshields in 1985. However, the bird strike requirements were not implemented until 1996. Therefore, any design changes to the S-76, including replacement windshields, would be required to meet only the original (1978) type certification basis for the S-76. The NTSB is concerned that the original type certification allows operators (such as PHI) to equip their helicopters with STC windshields that were not required to demonstrate the same level of protection provided by Sikorsky’s impact-resistant windshield. We believe that the recommended requirement would provide incentives to manufacturers and operators to invest in safety enhancements and improvements to ensure a higher level of safety—one that is at least comparable to Sikorsky’s impact-resistant windshield. We note that the FAA considers its actions complete in regard to Safety Recommendation A-10-138; however, because the regulations cited above do not address the NTSB’s intent in issuing the recommendation, we suspect that the FAA may not have fully understood our objective. Consequently, to allow the FAA to reconsider its position in light of our clarification, Safety Recommendation A-10-138 remains classified OPEN—AWAIT RESPONSE pending implementation of the recommended requirement.
CC# 201100057: - From J. Randolph Babbitt, Administrator: Currently, § 21.101 requires that design changes (for example, a supplemental type certificate) meet the existing type certification basis. If a rotorcraft design meets the bird-strike requirements of § 29.631, and it is part of the aircraft's type-certification basis, any follow-on changes to the design must also meet the same bird-strike requirements. Current regulations address the Board's concern. I believe we have satisfactorily responded to this safety recommendation, and I consider our actions complete.
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