TOPS Operator Standards Go Above and Beyond

When you choose to fly with a TOPS member, you can rest assured that you are flying with a helicopter tour operator who truly puts safety as their number one priority. Our members hold themselves to a higher safety standard. They are required to follow the Tour Operators’ Program of Safety, a program that outlines safety requirements above and beyond those required by the FAA, and each member must pass an annual independent audit to remain in good standing. As a result of their dedication to this standard, TOPS members offer the flying public a better combined safety record than the rest of the helicopter tour industry as a whole.

TOPS members are required to equip all aircraft with Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELTS).

TOPS members are required to carry aircraft flotation equipment on all extended flights over water to accomplish a safe emergency water landing.

TOPS members are required to equip each passenger and pilot with an approved personal flotation device for all flights over water.

TOPS members are required to equip their aircraft with visibility enhancing equipment such as flashing landing lights, high-visibility rotor blades and strobe lights.

TOPS members are required to carry equipment to meet federal regulations governing night VFR instrumentation for recovery from adverse weather conditions.

TOPS goes beyond the requirements of the Federal Aviation Regulations for Part 91 and Part 135 operations, under which most tours are conducted. The following table illustrates some of the TOPS safety requirements that exceed FAA regulations.

FAR
135

FAR
91

Required Safety Program
Annual Safety Audits
Designated Safety Manager
Human Factors & Aeronautical Decision Making Training
Ongoing Safety Training
Pilot Requirements of 1,000 hrs. flt. time and typical terrain experience
Minimum enroute altitude of 500 feet above ground level
Minimum of 1 mile visibility
Maximum angle of bank (30) and pitch (10) with smooth transitions
Avoidance of the height-velocity curve
3 year experience requirement for A&P mechanics
Maintenance factory training requirement
Mechanic annual training requirement
Emergency Locator Transmitter required (ELT)
High visibility rotor blades and flashing landing lights
Aircraft instrumentation required to night visual flight rule standard
Specialized ground support personnel training