UPDATE (04/19/2018): The FAA Released a Public Notice regarding this issue and operators can now apply for a LOA (Letter of Authorization) to use a SPRS (Supplemental Passenger Restraint System) for use with Doors Off or Door Open operation.
UPDATE (09/24/2018) Our 219 Quad Lock Aviation Crew Safety Belt has been approved by the FAA for those who submit the proper documentation. Operators wishing to apply for an LOA can email firstname.lastname@example.org to obtain a copy of the 219 Test Data and a five second video (required by the FAA) of the device being released.
Original Article (- March 28, 2018)
Last week, the FAA released “Doors-off” and “Open-door” Flight Prohibition – Emergency Restriction/Prohibition Order FAA-2018-0243. The order comes after the helicopter crash in New York on March 11th that killed five passengers. Wearing off-the-shelf fall protection harnesses, locked into the air-frame by screw-lock carabiners apparently, the passengers had no chance at successful egress and drowned.
According to a preliminary report released by the NTSB, the pilot instructed the passengers how to use a cutting tool (located on the harness) to cut themselves free in an emergency. Not surprisingly, this proved an ineffective method to ensure reasonable passenger safety. The FAAs reaction was to release FAA-2018-0243. Though pages long, the following paragraph sums it up:
Further, effective immediately, passenger-carrying doors off flight operations for compensation or hire are prohibited unless the passengers are at all times properly using FAA-approved restraints (the aircraft seat belts) such as at all times occupying an approved seat or berth and properly secured with a safety belt and, if installed, a harness; or at all times secured by an FAA-approved supplemental passenger restraint system.
What that means to operators at the moment is this; if you are going to open the door in flight, everyone has to be in their seats with the aircraft seat belts securely fastened. No exceptions.
You may be thinking that all you have to do is make sure you are using one of those handy FAA-Approved Supplemental Passenger Restraint Systems, but here is the problem; none exist.
While FAA-2018-0243 does provide a contact to gain approval for such systems, the FAA is not yet ready to accept the requests and are still developing the approval process for these systems. Put another way, they are saying that until we can work out a safe way to do this, everyone stop doing it. (seems fair)
LSC has been in contact with the FAA Aircraft Certification Service, Policy and Innovation Division, Rotorcraft Standards Branch, in Texas and have been told they are working on short term and long term approval processes. The long term solution will likely be a TSO. This may take years. The short term solution will be a preliminary approval process and they will send it to us (as well as out for public dissemination) as soon as it is complete. When they do, we will submit our appropriate equipment for approval.
In the mean time, those of you looking for an FAA approved product to use when flying with the door open, you have them – they are attached to your seats already. Otherwise, you’ll have to keep the doors closed.