NTSB calls for more oversight of air tours after fatal incidents

NTSB calls for more oversight of air tours after fatal incidents
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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is calling for more oversight of air tours after fatal incidents.

The board said in a press release on Tuesday that it asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to enhance safety requirements for some passenger-carrying flight operations that are conducted as general aviation flights, such as commercial air tours or a parachute jump flight.

NTSB said in a public meeting that people who participate in those flights aren’t aware that those operations are not subject to the same maintenance, airworthiness and operational requirements as other revenue flights.

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The board said that there was a lack of FAA oversight over these operations, known as Part 91 passenger-carrying operations. The board said there was a lack of structured pilot training, deficiencies in pilot skills and decision-making and inadequate aircraft maintenance.

The call for more oversight comes after eight incidents, including a crash of a commercial hot air balloon near Lockhart, Texas, in July 2016. The crash killed the pilot and all 15 passengers, with the board calling it the “deadliest aviation accident since 2009.”

NTSB also pointed to instances where operators exploit loopholes to avoid more robust oversight, such as a helicopter crash in March 2018 in New York City that killed all five passengers. The flight was operating as an aerial photography flight, though an investigation determined that it was an air tour.

The board said it made six new recommendations to the FAA, including developing national safety standards for specific revenue passenger-carrying operations and requiring safety management systems for all revenue passenger-carrying operations conducted under Part 91.

In a statement to The Hill, the FAA said it has "a close working relationship with the NTSB, and the two agencies share a common goal of promoting aviation safety and preventing aircraft accidents." 

"The FAA has a number of initiatives under way to improve the safety of operations conducted under Part 91 of the Federal Aviation Regulations," the agency said. "We take NTSB recommendations very seriously and will carefully consider all of the recommendations and input the Board provided today."