letter - Helicopter Association International

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letter - Helicopter Association International

1635 Prince Street, Alexandria, VA 22314-2818 Telephone: (703) 683-4646 Fax: (703) 683-4646 www.rotor.com

April 20, 2004

Senator Ted Stevens

Chairman, Senate Appropriations Committee

United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Stevens:

Legislation enacted by Congress last year to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration

included authorization language to support the implementation of low altitude weather and

communications in the Gulf of Mexico to support offshore helicopter operations.

Unfortunately, FY 04 appropriations did not include funding for this endeavor.

The absence of weather reporting equipment, communications infrastructure, and air traffic

services for offshore operations continues to raise significant industry and governmental

concern. The alarmingly high Gulf of Mexico accident rate is due, in part, to the absence of

this equipment. Two weeks ago, another tragic accident occurred with the loss of a Sikorsky

S-76 aircraft. Eight passengers and two crew members perished, and search and recovery

efforts lasted nearly three days. Had equipment been in place, the aircraft could have been

located within hours.

Deficiencies in the FAA’s ability to provide Air Traffic Control (ATC) services in the Gulf

have been noted in numerous internal and national Air Traffic evaluations over the last ten

years. Helicopter Association International (HAI) and the offshore helicopter operators and

oil exploration companies have worked closely with the Federal Aviation Administration

(FAA) Safeflight 21 Office to develop a cost-sharing program to improve air traffic services

in the offshore and international airspace controlled by the FAA in the Gulf of Mexico.

Under the terms of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) currently being developed

between industry and the FAA, industry would provide free transportation for the

installation of weather and communications equipment and maintenance thereof, physical

space on offshore platforms for the equipment, and the telecommunications links required

to transmit data back to shore. The FAA would provide the hardware and advanced

maintenance. However, without a direct appropriation for FY 05, there will be no

fielding of equipment for another 18 months to two years. It is important that Congress

understand that the current program to meet offshore oceanic air traffic requirements will

benefit both low and high altitude users of Gulf of Mexico airspace.


Senator Stevens -2- April 20, 2004

In consultation with the FAA, the following legislative language is offered for your

consideration. Your support for this worthy endeavor that will increase safety and security

in the Gulf of Mexico and enable the FAA to provide critical air traffic services is important.

F&E funding of $10.9 million for FY 05 to the Federal Aviation Administration's

Safeflight 21 Program Office for direct full-up implementation and certification for air

traffic services in the Gulf of Mexico to provide low altitude helicopter

communications, weather and surveillance, representing year one of a five-year

appropriation.

There are over 4000 operating platforms in the Gulf, extending out approximately 200 miles

from the shoreline, staffed by 70,000 plus employees. A fleet of approximately 650

helicopters transport an average of 11,000 people to and from work and deliver critical

materials to offshore platforms daily. In 2002, within Gulf offshore airspace, 1,564,362

helicopter flights carried 3,088,865 passengers and recorded 402,632 hours of flight time.

These figures are expected to climb in the next two decades based upon Minerals

Management Service (MMS) predictions that oil platforms will extend 400 to 500 miles

offshore to accommodate the Gulf of Mexico’s growing importance for oil exploration.

High altitude operations are also increasing. This growth has been attributed to the

escalation of tourism in Mexico and trade with Central and South American countries. The

potential that relations with Cuba will normalize, coupled with trade initiatives in Chile and

the impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) suggest an even greater

need for ATC in the Gulf of Mexico.

I hope that you will lend your strong support for an immediate appropriation to support the

development of weather, communications, and surveillance services in the Gulf of Mexico.

If I may answer any questions on this matter, please contact me at 703-683-4646.

Sincerely,

Roy Resavage

President

1635 Prince Street, Alexandria, VA 22314-2818 Telephone: (703) 683-4646 Fax: (703) 683-4646 www.rotor.com

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