The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has unveiled plans to require newly designed helicopters to be quieter than existing rotorcraft, a move the agency asserts would benefit the public while promoting consistency with international standards.
The FAA said the proposed rule, published in the Federal Register on Sept. 18, would impose “more stringent noise limits” on new helicopter models certificated in the United States, and would “satisfy the goal of harmonizing” U.S. regulations with standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
“Although ICAO adopted increased noise stringency standards for helicopters in 2002, the United States has yet to adopt these standards” into federal regulations, the FAA wrote in its announcement. “There has been heightened public awareness of helicopter noise in the United States, and the FAA has determined that the public would benefit from adoption of these more-stringent standards.”
Based on rotorcraft development trends over the past decade, the FAA estimates that applications for new helicopter type designs will be submitted over the next 10 years. It foresees that no changes in testing will be needed for the helicopters to achieve the new noise certification, designated as Stage 3.
“This proposed rule is not expected to result in additional costs,” the FAA wrote. “This proposed rule also would make it easier to sell U.S. Stage 3 helicopters outside the United States because the noise standards will be the same as those of ICAO.”
Although the FAA insisted that existing helicopters, classified as either Stage 1 or Stage 2 aircraft, would not be affected by the rule, the Helicopter Association International (HAI) indicated it would prefer stronger language clarifying that existing helicopters are exempt.
“We support initiatives such as the recent FAA notice of proposed rulemaking regarding noise certification for new type-designed helicopters,” HAI President Matt Zuccaro said. “But helicopters are major capital investments, so we also believe any FAA action should include a grandfather clause for existing helicopters to allow them to continue to fly for the remainder of their operational lives, and that the new noise certification standards should not affect the access to airspace for legacy aircraft.”
Zuccaro added, “HAI and its members who manufacture and operate helicopters have always supported measures to minimize the impact of our operations on people on the ground. That’s why we created our ‘Fly Neighborly’ program, and why we have aggressively supported the development of quiet technology.”
HAI plans to submit more extensive comments in a formal response to the FAA. Public comments on the proposed rule are due to the agency by Nov. 19.