Tour Operators Program of Safety (TOPS) is changing its membership program to include a much broader segment of operators than just its traditional part 135 rotorcraft base, in an effort to raise the level of safety among air tour operators.
The expansion of the program has been coined the “Rising Tide Program” as a reflection of its inclusive nature.
“The rising tide raises all ships, which is exactly what TOPS aspires to do for the air tour industry,” said TOPS executive director Stan Rose. “We’re no longer willing to sit back and just say we’re glad it wasn’t one of our members that had an accident. We are taking a proactive role in leading this change and delivering a better outcome for everyone.”
Rose said the general public classifies all air tour operators as one, and the benefits of the TOPS membership have historically been limited to a small subset of part 135 operators.
Standards developed within the TOPS organization are designed to go above and beyond what is required by the FAA. With the Rising Tide Program, TOPS is creating provisional membership opportunities for part 135 operators who don’t fully meet the TOPS standard, but can demonstrate an equivalent level of safety. Through the program, these operators will receive guidance and mentoring to elevate their operations to the TOPS standard.
The program will also extend provisional membership opportunities to part 91 air tour operators that are prepared to fly to a higher safety standard. Rose added that the company hopes these part 91 operators will eventually work toward part 135 certification.