Aviators face flight restrictions because of Obama visit

Richard Schuman
Richard Schuman

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Island Seaplane Service, Oahu's only commercial seaplane operation, lost thousands of dollars when President Obama visited last Christmas. The company is hoping to avoid the same losses when the first family visits this Christmas.

Pat Magie, who owns Island Seaplane Service, will find out about flight restrictions for Obama's 2010 Christmas visit when Magie and other aviators meet with the FAA, TSA, and other government agencies Wednesday.

In 2009 the FAA enforced a strict no fly zone within ten miles of the Kailua home where the president was staying. It also required all tour passengers to be screened at a central location at Honolulu International Airport.

The rules prevented operators from taking passengers to some of Oahu's most scenic locations, such as Kaneohe Bay, but allowed them to keep flying.

Island Seaplane Service was effectively shut down because its plane can only land on water. It could not fly passengers to the land-based screening location and therefore could not fly.

The General Aviation Council of Hawaii and other groups have spent the past year lobbying for a more workable security scenario. While details will not be known until Wednesday's meeting, it looks like the advance planning will pay off.

"This year I think we are much more organized. The federal agencies are much more organized and willing to sit and work with the operators, so I think it's much much better than last year," Richard Schuman, owner of Makani Kai Helicopters, told Hawaii News Now.

Schuman said he has already been told that once the TSA screens his passengers, he will be allowed to take them to most of the island's scenic spots, just not anywhere within ten miles of Obama's vacation home.

The folks at Island Seaplane Service hope the government will assign a screener to their dock so they can keep flying.

Paradise Helicopters says its flights out of Turtle Bay will be shut down. Paradise Helicopters is based on the Big Island. That is where it does most of its business. But it does fly one chopper out of Turtle Bay.

In order to keep flying Paradise would have to fly passengers from Turtle Bay to Honolulu International Airport for the passengers to be screened. After the screening, it could proceed to spots outside the 10-mile no fly zone. Company owner Calvin Dorn told Hawaii News Now the flight to Honolulu for screening would be more trouble and cost than it is worth.

"It's very frustrating," Dorn said. "We certainly want to ensure the president's security while he's here and we all, I think, enjoy the fact that he's from Hawaii and he's going to vacation in Hawaii. For us personally in our operation, just because where we sit at Turtle Bay, we're put out of business for one of the busiest times of the year."

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