Presidential visit disrupting tour chopper service

Presidential visit disrupting tour chopper service
Richard Schuman
Richard Schuman

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Air tour operators on Oahu are worried the upcoming visit by President Obama is going to ground their businesses.

At the direction of the Secret Service, the Federal Aviation Administration has established flight restrictions that will be in effect from December 23 through January 4. The restrictions set a ten mile perimeter around the Kailua neighborhood where the president is expected to stay. No one, except law enforcement, will be allowed to fly within that ten mile circle.

"Three quarters of my whole tour is in this ten mile restricted area, said Richard Schuman, president and owner of Makani Kai Helicopters.

Schuman said the most popular attractions, including Sacred Falls, Kanehoe Bay, Kualoa Ranch, and the cliffs at Makapuu will be off limits during the 13 day no-fly period.

Schuman said he would be able to offer tours of areas outside the ten mile restricted area, but the attractions in these other area are limited.

"These customers pay up to $237 per head to go around this island. They are not going to get what they're paying for and I think we can't sell a product that ... we just can sell," Schuman told Hawaii News Now.

And Schuman said, before flying anywhere over Oahu his helicopters and passengers would be subject to screening by TSA personnel.

"They are going to screen every passenger that I have. They want to check their ID's. They are going to magic want them.D

The restrictions will impact flight schools, helicopter tour operators, and fixed wing tours.

A spokesperson for the Secret Service told Hawaii News Now the agency tries to find a good balance between safety for the president and the disruption to businesses. He said they will work with tour operators to help them continue to fly certain limited routes, but the agency will not revisit or relax any of the restrictions. The security of the president, he said, comes first.