June 11, 2020

Harris, Feinstein, Sherman, Colleagues Introduce Bill Making Safety Equipment Mandatory on Helicopters

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Thursday joined Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA), along with Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), and Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA), in introducing the Helicopter Safety Act, a bill to require terrain awareness and warning systems and crash-resistant flight data and voice recorders on all helicopters that carry six or more passengers.

Since 2006, the National Transportation Safety Board has issued and re-issued recommendations urging this safety equipment be mandatory on helicopters. Yet, the FAA only requires certain helicopters, such as air ambulances, to carry it.

"The death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others was devastating news for Los Angeles and the entire country. It is critical that helicopters be required to have terrain awareness equipment and warning systems in place. I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation to prevent accidents like this from occurring again,” said Senator Harris.

“Despite NTSB recommendations 15 years ago that the FAA make terrain awareness equipment and other safety technology mandatory on all helicopters, some of this lifesaving equipment is only required to be installed in air ambulances. That’s simply unacceptable,” Senator Feinstein said. “We saw the deadly results of this inaction in January when a helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others crashed. If that helicopter had terrain awareness equipment, the tragedy may have been averted. This commonsense bill will save lives, and Congress should act to pass it immediately.”

“In 2004, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended to the FAA that all helicopters be equipped with a Terrain Awareness and Warning System. Unfortunately, the FAA refused to follow this recommendation to require the safety system” said Congressman Sherman. “The Helicopter Safety Act of 2020 will finally direct the FAA to require these safety features for passenger helicopters in order to avoid tragedies like the one that claimed the life of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant and seven others.”

“Despite tragic helicopter crashes across the country and here in New York—from FlyNYON to the crash last year on a Manhattan tower—the installation of chopper warning systems and crash-resistant flight data and voice recorders has remained an elusive, basic safety standard the federal government has failed to mandate. The bill we are introducing today would heed safety recommendations the NTSB has all but begged for and ones New Yorkers know are badly needed,” said Minority Leader Schumer.

Full text of the bill is available here.

Background:

  • On January 26, 2020 a helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant and eight other passengers crashed in Calabasas, Calif., killing everyone aboard. A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that the helicopter was flying in foggy weather and was not equipped with terrain awareness technology.
  • Since 2006, the NTSB has recommended that all helicopters be equipped with terrain awareness technology, but so far the FAA has only applied this requirement to air ambulances. The bill would direct the FAA to require terrain awareness technology and crash-resistant flight and voice recorders on all helicopters carrying six or more passengers.

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