Growth in lava air tours a noisy problem for Big Island resident - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Growth in lava air tours a noisy problem for Big Island residents

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Thousands of people are flocking to see Kilauea putting on quite a show.

And that's translated to more helicopter tours over Hawaii Island communities, a fact that's irking many residents.

On Thursday, Federal Aviation Administration officials will meet with members of a non-profit group formed to deal with the problem.

"You cannot hold a normal conversation with someone sitting five feet away from you when one of them fly over. You can't hear the radio. You can't hear the TV," said Hilo resident Russ Underwood.

Last year, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park averaged 40 air tours daily, the most of any individual national park in the country. That's up to 80 flights a day for residents below, with choppers heading to and from Kilauea.

With the lava's new ocean entry, the number of tours have grown -- and so have complaints.

Residents created United Mountain View Coalition to address the noise pollution issue. Members have contacted state lawmakers for help.

State Sen. Russell Ruderman (D-Puna) said he supports the air tour industry, "but would just like some consideration for the people on the ground."

UMVC members said they've already tried reaching out to the tour companies.

"We showed them the videos that showed them what they were doing to us," said Mountain View resident Bob Ernst. "They act like they were astounded that this was happening to us. 'We're gonna make a difference.' they said. This was over a year ago."

A spokesman for Safari Helicopters, which has one chopper on the Big Island, said the company tries to minimize noise impacts.

"One of the things we do is we vary our flight paths so that we are not impacting the same people all the time and we try to have as much altitude as we possibly can," said chief pilot Paul Matero

The FAA does not regulate helicopter noise. Their regulations address safe operating altitudes.

There are no defined FAA flight paths for tours or hours of operation.

Frustrated residents want tour helicopters to fly over the ocean until they approach the volcano or the airport, but they realize the idea might not take off.

"They're flying over Hilo because it's an efficient way to get back to the airport. They could fly over the sea. They choose not to," said Underwood. "Shorter means less fuel, means more flights. It's basically that simple. It's economics, obviously." 

The superintendent of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park also has concerns about safety and noise pollution with all of the air traffic. Cindy Orlando wants the FAA to reduce the maximum number of air tours allowed over the park to try to lessen the impact.

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