Hawaii Helicopter Company Picked For Landmark Aviation Safety Program

Ross Scott
Ross Scott
Ken Kloppel
Ken Kloppel

KAHULUI, MAUI (KHNL) - The Federal Aviation Administration picks a local helicopter company for a study that could revolutionize the aviation industry.

Sunshine Helicopters in Maui is the only Hawaii-based group, and the only helicopter tour company picked by the FAA.

Sunshine helicopters fly around Maui up to 20 times a day. It's one of Hawaii's busiest helicopter tour companies. Recently, the FAA picked Sunshine to take part in a landmark program called "safety management system" or SMS.

"The goal is for better safety risk assessment, thereby eliminating accidents," said Ross Scott, president of Sunshine Helicopters.

SMS takes a scientific approach to aviation risk, assigning a numeric value to everyday operations. The goal is to "design out" causes of failure.

"We're going to help set the standards that are going to improve safety throughout the industry," said Ken Kloppel, a pilot for Sunshine Helicopters.

Sunshine is one of nine aviation companies involved in this new study. It could revolutionize aviation culture by taking a proactive approach to safety, instead of a reactive one.

"This system says, 'Wait a minute. Maybe we can stop the accident before it happens,'" said Ross.

As part of this safety-first approach, some of the helicopters even have advanced safety features.

In lieu of a tail rotor, the EC130B-4 helicopter has a Fenstraun, which protects the tail rotor, making it safer on the ground and in the air.

And as the helicopter circles high above Maui, participants can take in the view without too much concern about safety.

Back on the ground, folks at Sunshine hope improved aviation standards will continue to attract customers.

"We can provide a view of the vista like no other place and we want to do it to where they want to come back and do it again," said Kloppel.

The FAA plans to roll out a new aviation standard by 2009.