In the final rule published for Subpart L, the FAA wrote the following:
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PARTS 91 AND 135
AMOA, Air Evac EMS Inc. (Air Evac EMS), AAMS, NEMSPA, and PHI were among commenters that said that applying part 135 regulations to operations traditionally considered to be under part 91 is inconsistent with the current regulatory framework and could introduce confusion. Instead, these commenters said changes to enhance safety requirements for these operations should be made by amending part 91, not part 135. This would ensure the continuity and applicability of the current rules.
The NTSB supported the proposal and stated that it would likely meet the intent of Safety Recommendation A-06-12. However, it also stated that the list of flights conducted under part 135 must be as complete as possible and should include maintenance flights, training flights, helicopter positioning flights performed without medical crewmembers on board, and other operations that would not be required to be conducted under part 135 under this rule.
The commenters are correct that, as discussed in the NPRM, currently non-patient-carrying legs of helicopter air ambulance operations may be conducted under part 91. The FAA, through this rule, is requiring legs with medical personnel onboard to be conducted under part 135. The primary reason for this change is to protect medical personnel by ensuring that those flights are conducted under the more stringent operating rules of part 135. As noted by the NTSB, medical personnel “cannot be expected to meaningfully participate in the decision-making process to enhance flight safety or to significantly contribute to operational control of the flight.” Accordingly, the FAA determined that medical personnel deserve the same safety protections that part 135 provides to patients on helicopter air ambulance flights.
Additionally, the FAA is not changing the rule language to provide a more extensive list of flights that must be conducted under part 135. As discussed above, the rule is clear that if medical personnel or a patient are on board the aircraft and the flight is conducted for medical transportation, then it must be conducted under part 135. The non-exclusive list is intended to emphasize that the traditional three-legged helicopter air ambulance flight (base to pick-up site, pick-up site to drop-off site, drop-off site to base) must now be conducted under part 135.
Further, the FAA does not anticipate that the placement of these rules in part 135 rather than in part 91 will cause confusion for certificate holders. It is clear that these rules only apply to part 119 certificate holders authorized to conduct helicopter air ambulance operations under part 135. Part 135 is a logical place for the regulations affecting this population.
The FAA is not requiring a certificate holder fly all the way back to the base under Part 136.267. Not in the least. I'll bet the FAA answered the union's question as it was asked, but that the question asked was not what the union thought they were asking. Yes, if a medical crew is aboard the flight, it must be Part 135. But, at the same time, if the medical crewmember is not on the flight, it can be operated under Part 91.
Thus, you can plan to fly to where you drop off the patient and medical crewmembers prior to the 14th duty hour, and still plan to fly back to the base without them under Part 91 beyond the 14 hrs. Your rest will not start until you are completely free of all duty (postflight, etc), but there is not limitation on the lenght of the duty period any longer since it is not Part 135!
Imagine if what the union says to be true, then EVERY Part 135 operator will have to fly their aircraft back to the base everyday, and within 14 hours! Preposterous! Or, they can't ever have a pilot fly an aircraft anywhere and plan to deadhead him back to his domicile unless it is within the 14-hours from him starting. Inane! All those NetJet pilots will have to give up yet another day off now!