Congressman calls for stricter regulations on tour helicopters amid third fatal crash this year

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HONOLULU(KHON2)–Tour helicopters and small aircraft operations are downright dangerous according to Congressman Ed Case. He said the lack of regulation in the industry is causing deaths that could be prevented after the latest fatal crash on Kauai.

“The bottom line is tour helicopters and small aircraft are not safe,” Case said after the wreckage of the helicopter missing since Thursday evening was found in Koke’e on Kauai.

It’s the third fatal crash in Hawaii this year.

Case said enough is enough.

“I’m angry about it because we just lost more lives.”

On April 29, a tour helicopter crashed in a busy residential Kailua neighborhood killing the three passengers.

On June 21 a skydiving plane went down in Mokuleia killing all 11 onboard.

There were seven people onboard the Safari Helicopter in Kauai that crashed Thursday.

“For us to just sit here and chock these seven lives up to lives lost, 21 lives lost in Hawaii this year alone, and not think that something is dreadfully wrong–that’s just putting your head in the sand,” Case said.

Case introduced his Safe and Quiet Skies Act (HR 4547) in September in an effort to make the tour helicopter and small aircraft industry safer through stiffer regulation.

One of the things he is pushing for is the ‘sterile cockpit rule’, which requires pilots to focus only on flying.

Case said they should not be guiding a tour in the sky or operating video cameras while flying.

“I don’t think any pilot should be doing anything other than piloting the aircraft and assuring safety.”

And that’s just one concern of many according to Case. Another issue is the flight path of many tours.

“We have thousands of flights every year over hundreds of thousands of households throughout Hawaii by tour helicopters. They fly directly over our residential communities. Any one of those helicopters could drop out of the sky,” Case explained.

That is exactly what happened in the Kailua crash in April. The Robinson R-44 tour helicopter crashed on Oneawa Street, narrowly missing homes. Had the aircraft crashed just 30 minutes earlier it would have likely fallen on morning commuters in traffic trying to get to work or school.

“Nobody has the right to operate public airspace in a way that jeopardizes the folks on those flights and the folks on the ground.”

Case said his legislation is necessary to force the industry to shape up.

“I have absolutely no faith in this industry’s ability to recognize the real problem that they have created. They’ve shown no good faith effort whatsoever recognizing the problem or doing anything about it,” Case said.

In a statement the FAA said:

“Safety is the FAA’s top priority. The agency conducts random and regular surveillance on all Hawaii air tour operators, and ensures companies address any issues they may find. The FAA has not identified issues of concern that are applicable to the industry statewide. The FAA’s air tour regulations include requirements that are specific to Hawaii operations.  Please see Appendix A of this link: https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=8a05d92e27d189ba3bb7032d21a42302&mc=true&node=pt14.3.136&rgn=div5

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