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FAA loosens safety regs for air ambulances

Ambulance helicopter pilots will be given more discretion to fly in bad weather conditions under new rules from the Federal Aviation Administration.

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The FAA is moving forward with new approach and departure regulations that will allow pilots of helicopter air ambulances to make judgment calls when deciding whether to depart in bad weather conditions.

The new rules will allow these pilots to depart, even if current weather reports are not available for the area, as long as they have a ceiling of visibility from the helicopter, the agency said.

"The rule permits the pilot in command of a helicopter air ambulance to assess the weather at a departure point where current weather observations are not available and allows the pilot to depart if the observed ceiling and visibility is greater than certain weather minimums," the agency wrote in the Federal Register.

The rules would only apply to helicopter air ambulances.

The FAA is affirming a rule that it published earlier this year. It will go into effect on April 22, 2015.