FAA scrutinizing sport pilot operations

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There are about 20 certified flight instructors in Hawaii's sport aircraft industry. They pilot powered gliders, ultralights, and flying machines called trikes.

Three fatal crashes since April, 2010, killed six people - three pilots and three passengers.

"One fatality is too many. And that's why we're here today," said Nick Reyes, FAA Western-Pacific Flight Standards manager.

The Federal Aviation Administration now pledges closer scrutiny of the industry, surprise visits to instructors, and more penalties for pilots who give sightseeing flights under the guise of flight instruction.

Sport pilots who follow the rules welcome the oversight.

"The three companies that have come and gone, and sadly took passengers with them, they were the cowboys. They were the ones we were concerned about. And they were the ones that every single one of us reported," said Denise Sanders of Paradise Air.

The FAA said punishments could range from a warning letter to stiff fines to having sport pilot certificates suspended.

"We will take enforcement actions against any operator that is not complying with the federal regulations," Reyes said.

"We personally have invited the FAA to do flights with us or review any or our videos," Sanders said. "We record every single one of our flights with video and with audio."

In the last few months the FAA has met with sport pilots around the state. Reyes said they pledge to comply. The increased attention is to ensure they do.

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