On April 22, 2014 the Federal Register published a final rule amending 14 CFR Parts 91, 120, and 135 affecting Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulated companies. As part of the final rule the FAA has created in additional safety sensitive position, operations controls specialist, that is subject to the drug & alcohol testing rules of 14 CFR Part 120.
This final rule addresses helicopter air ambulance, commercial helicopter, and general aviation helicopter operations. To address an increase in fatal helicopter air ambulance accidents, the FAA is implementing new operational procedures and additional equipment requirements for helicopter air ambulance operations. This final rule also increases safety for commercial helicopter operations by revising requirements for equipment, pilot testing, and alternate airports. It increases weather minimums for all general aviation helicopter operations. Many of these requirements address National Transportation Safety Board safety recommendations, and are already found in FAA guidance. The changes are intended to provide certificate holders and pilots with additional tools and procedures that will aid in preventing accidents.
The final rule requires certificate holders with 10 or more helicopter air ambulances to establish operations control centers (OCC) (Sec. 135.619) and requires drug and alcohol testing for operations control specialists (Sec. Sec. 120.105 and 120.215). OCC personnel will communicate with pilots, provide weather information, monitor flights and assist with preflight risk assessments providing an additional measure of safety for complex operations. Operations control specialists perform safety sensitive functions, similar to an aircraft dispatcher, and therefore must be subject to the restrictions on drug and alcohol use.