Recommendation R20040053

Recommendation issued to: Civil Aviation Safety Authority

Recommendation details
Output No: R20040053
Date issued: 12 May 2004
Safety action status: Closed - No Longer Relevant

There are currently no regulatory requirements for helicopters engaged in single-pilot commercial or aerial work under the Night Visual Flight Rules (NVFR), which are not Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) equipped, to have an autopilot or stability augmentation system (SAS). These systems would permit pilots to safely cope with the high workloads encountered during NVFR flight.

Autopilot Systems

Helicopters not equipped with an autopilot or stabilisation system may be more difficult to maintain in a trimmed condition during inadvertent flight into instrument meteorological conditions, or when operating during a flight under the NVFR in low celestial or artificial lighting conditions. An autopilot or stability augmentation system would decrease pilot workload, which may be excessive during flights of this type.

Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority Civil Aviation Order (CAO) Part 95.7.3 includes a requirement for helicopters to be fitted with an autopilot system if it is engaged in a charter marine pilot transfer of more that 10 nautical miles from land, and crewed by one pilot.

The Helicopter Association of Australia recently drafted a paper called 'Night Operations Risk Reduction Checklist'. This checklist is being developed to allow operators to evaluate the risk related to night operations. The checklist allows allocation of points to each item that contributes to the safety of operations (out of a maximum of ten points per item). The checklist allocates four points to an operator whose helicopter had an automatic flight control system and four points to a helicopter fitted with a stability augmentation system.


The inclusion of a requirement for an autopilot or stability augmentation system in a helicopter being crewed by a single pilot during flight under the NVFR would reduce the workload on the pilot during demanding single pilot operations. Additionally, an auto pilot or stability augmentation system could afford a pilot affected by spatial disorientation additional time to reorient him or herself.

Output text

Safety Recommendation

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau recommends that the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority assess the safety benefits of requiring an autopilot or stability augmentation system in all single pilot helicopter operating flight under the NVFR, in the Charter and Aerial Work category, excluding dual pilot training.

Initial response
Date issued: 14 July 2004
Response from: Civil Aviation Safety Authority
Action status: Open
Response text:

Issues raised in the recommendations relate to Civil Aviation Safety Regulation (CASR) Part 133, which is currently under review. Therefore, until the review is complete, CASA is unable to provide the ATSB with any substantial comment.

Further correspondence
Response from: 2004-07-21
Response status: Closed - Accepted
Response text:

CASA has reviewed the recommendation and believes that it will be addressed with the introduction of CASR Part 133. Included in CASR Part 133 is a general statement that provides practical and effective approach to this aspect of the safety of NVFR flight in rotorcraft. An extract from that Part is provided below for your information.

133.360 Instruments and equipment- General

Subparagraph (2)

For a night VFR flight by a rotorcraft involving flight over water beyond a distance from land at which a coastline would be visible at night in VMC at 500ft amsl, or over land areas where rotorcraft attitude cannot be maintained by adequate illumination of surface features or by reference to ground illumination of surface features or by reference to ground lighting or a visible discernible horizon, the operator must ensure that the rotorcraft:

a) is equipped with an approved automatic pilot; or
b) is equipped with an approved automatic stabilisation system; or
c) carries a 2 pilot crew.

ATSB comment:

In December 2006 the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) published Civil Aviation Advisory Publication 5.13-2(0) Night Visual Flight Rules Rating. This advisory included safety information on night flying with the intent of assisting flight instructors and flying schools in providing appropriate training to Night VFR pilots. Additionally, CASA advised that Civil Aviation Safety Regulation Part 61 Flight crew licensing will incorporate a biennial flight review requirement.

Last update 01 April 2011