On The Radar
Around 100 industry stakeholders gathered this week at Helicopter Association International’s Heli-Expo show in Dallas to review and comment on the FAA’s recently released draft engineering brief for a vertiport and vertistop design standard. The brief will eventually produce an FAA advisory circular for vertiports.
Rex Alexander, principal of the heliport/vertiport consultancy Five Alpha, told AIN following the gathering that he believes this AC will be published no earlier than 2024, “but it is anybody’s guess” as to the timing. With companies expecting to inaugurate eVTOL passenger service by 2025, “we are on a pretty tight timeline” to provide feedback and impact the FAA standard, he added. That standard is critical for harmonizing constituent parts, including national fire protection standards, local building codes, and insurance requirements.
“It [the FAA draft brief] illustrates a concerted effort on the part of the FAA to strike a balance between safety and the advancement of technology,” commented Alexander, who is infrastructure adviser to the Vertical Flight Society and a member of HAI’s heliport working group. “In lieu of empirical performance data for each of the different eVTOL aircraft currently under consideration, which infrastructure design is to be based on, a conservative approach is definitely warranted. While this effort is much more prescriptive than many would probably like to see, it does set a solid foundation to build on as we move forward and more data becomes available.”
Comments collected at the Heli-Expo meeting will be shared for further review by stakeholders so that they can be ranked in order of importance. Then they will be sent to the FAA ahead of the agency’s industry engagement day on March 29. Individuals have until April 18 to submit comments to the FAA, which is expected to release a final engineering brief in June 2022.