Aviation safety issues and actions

Helicopters not manufactured with a crash-resistant fuel system

Issue number: AO-2013-055-SI-03
Who it affects: All owners and operators of R44 helicopters not fitted with crash-resistant fuel systems
Issue owner: United States Federal Aviation Administration and European Aviation Safety Agency
Transport function: Aviation: General aviation
Background: Investigation Report AO-2013-055
Issue release date: 04 June 2015
Current issue status: Closed – Partially addressed
Issue status justification:

The ATSB notes that the FAA considers this safety recommendation superseded by safety recommendation, A‑15‑12 issued by the NTSB. However, noting the ongoing action being taken to increase the fitment of crash‑resistant fuel systems to newly‑manufactured helicopters, this safety issue is closed as partially addressed.

Safety issue description

Although certification requirements for helicopters to include a crash-resistant fuel system (CRFS) were introduced in 1994, several helicopter types certified before these requirements became applicable are still being manufactured without a CRFS.

 

Response to safety issue by the United States Federal Aviation Administration

The FAA advised that they agreed with this safety issue and that it was consistent with the results of their own research. However, no advice of intended safety action in relation to this issue was provided.

Response to the safety issue by the European Aviation Safety Agency

In accordance with international convention, a copy of the draft investigation report was provided to the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) via the Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses pour la Sécurité de l’Aviation civile (BEA). No response was received from EASA in relation to the identified safety issue or advice received of any intended safety action in response.

 

As a result, the ATSB issued the following safety recommendations.

Safety recommendation

Action number: AO-2013-055-SR-026
Action organisation: United States Federal Aviation Administration
Date: 04 June 2015
Action status: Monitor
The ATSB recommends that the United States Federal Aviation Administration take action to increase the number of helicopters manufactured in accordance with the 1994 certification requirements for helicopters to include a crash-resistant fuel system.

Additional correspondence

Response date: 02 April 2019
Response from: United States Federal Aviation Administration
Action status: Monitor
Response text:

In response to this recommendation, the FAA is initiating rulemaking action to address the crash resistant fuel system in newly manufactured and existing fleet helicopters. As previously mentioned in our last letter dated, March 3, 2016, the agency’s Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC) established the Rotorcraft Occupant Protection Working Group (ROPWG) to determine how to improve occupant protection in both newly‑manufactured and existing helicopters. The ROPWG presented their findings and reports to the ARAC in 2018.

The ARAC and ROPWG, along with their combined activities, are both working directly in response to the NTSB safety recommendation A‑15‑12. The safety recommendation states, “Require, for all newly manufactured rotorcraft regardless of the design’s original certification date, that the fuel systems meet the crashworthiness requirements of 14 Code of Federal Regulations 27.952 or 29.952, Fuel System Crash Resistance.” For this reason, the ATSB’s safety recommendation is being closed superseded by the NTSB’s recommendation A‑15‑12.

This NTSB safety recommendation is available at the following website:
ntsb.gov/_layouts/ntsb.recsearch/Recommendation.aspx?Rec=A‑15‑012.

I believe the FAA is effectively addressing this safety recommendation in our current handling of NTSB recommendation A‑15‑12 and consider our actions complete.

The FAA would like to thank the ATSB for submitting FAA Safety Recommendation 15.083 and its continued interest in aviation safety…

ATSB comment:

The ATSB recognises the FAA’s ongoing efforts to address this safety issue. The associated safety recommendation, A‑15‑12 issued by the NTSB is currently classified as ‘Open – Acceptable Response’ based on the action of the FAA to date, including:

‘…Section 317 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 20 18, signed October 5. 20 18. (49, United States Code 44 73 7), requires crash resistant fuel systems on rotorcraft. The provisions within Section 317, Helicopter Fuel, System Safety, also requires the FAA to expedite validations and certifications of retrofit kits, and issue the first bulletin within 180 days to infom1 rotorcraft owners and operators of available modifications to improve fuel system crashworthiness and urge that such modifications be installed as soon as possible. On December 3. 2018, the FAA issued Special Airworthiness Bulletin (SAIB) SW-17-31R1, Fuel Systems. This revised SAIB SW-17-31 informs operators and the flying public of those models that meet one of two levels of crash resistant fuel systems: full compliance or the congressionally-mandated partial compliance to the requirements. The SAIB provides a link to the regularly updated list of rotorcraft that are fully compliant with the airworthiness standards for crash-resistant fuel systems. The list also includes those modifications that make a rotorcraft model compliant. The SAIB revision retains the recommendation for owners and operators to pursue rotorcraft models that have fuel system crash resistance…’

The FAA advised the NTSB that further advice regarding progress on safety recommendation A‑15‑12 will be provided by December 2020.

Safety recommendation

Action number: AO-2013-055-SR-030
Action organisation: European Aviation Safety Agency
Date: 04 June 2015
Action status: Released

The ATSB recommends that the European Aviation Safety Agency take action to increase the number of helicopters manufactured in accordance with the 1994 certification requirements for helicopters to include a crash-resistant fuel system.

ATSB comment:

No response to this safety recommendation was received from the European Aviation Safety Agency.

Last update 05 November 2020