In wake of deadly crash, lawmaker calls on authorities to ground tour helicopters

Updated: Apr. 29, 2019 at 4:38 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A state representative is calling on authorities to ground tour helicopters in the wake of a deadly chopper crash on a busy Kailua street Monday morning.

FAA officials say air tours in Hawaii must be conducted at least 1,500 feet above ground, but operators can fly as low as 500 feet in some areas.

It’s unclear yet if the crashed chopper was following those rules, but Kailua residents say many companies are not.

State Rep. Cynthia Thielen, whose district includes Kailua and Kaneohe Bay, said Oahu tour helicopters should be grounded “until the authorities have assessed the situation" and determined whether it’s safe to allow non-emergency chopper flights over residential areas.

She said Hawaii’s congressional delegation needs to step in and work with the FAA to make residential areas off-limits to commerical air tours.

She’s also working on legislation to limit the number of tour companies that can use state airports.

“Before it was an incredible annoyance and now it’s a life-threatening situation when they’re flying right over our communities,” she said.

Meanwhile, residents say they’ve been complaining for years about tour helicopters flying too low over communities and the constant noise pollution.

Dan Brown says seven days a week, there can be as many as 12 helicopters an hour flying over his Enchanted Lake home.

“My house sometimes rattles and shakes when they come over,” said Enchanted Lake resident Dan Brown. “It’s kind of like a race track through here. They don’t need to be flying over our schools, our neighborhoods, our business districts. It’s just a recipe for disaster."

The issue has also been a hot topic with the Kailua neighborhood board.

Levani Lipton, the board’s vice chair, says while Monday’s fatal crash is heartbreaking, unfortunately, it’s not surprising.

“The complaints are the flight paths, the flight patterns, and the noise. The Kailua community has been fearful of something like this happening,” said Lipton.

Lipton says the board will be taking up the issue at its meeting on Thursday.

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