Helicopter flights over USS Arizona Memorial criticized as being ‘disrespectful’

Updated: Sep. 2, 2019 at 7:07 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The USS Arizona Memorial attracted another big crowd on Labor Day. But in the air, traffic was also heavy.

The monument reopened Sunday after 15 months of repairs. By Monday, the helicopter tours of Pearl Harbor were back in full gear.

During a single hour, we counted ten different helicopters flying over the harbor. Some visitors said the noisy tours are disrespectful.

“The distraction. I think it needs to be reflective place, very reflective. I think anything that’s going to turn your head up to look I think takes away from that,” said Gary Felsing of Benicia, Calif.

U.S. Rep. Ed Case, (D) Hawaii, introduced legislation in Congress to ban helicopter flights over national parks like Pearl Harbor.

“On any given day, the skies above Arizona will be full of tour operators flying low, flying right over the Arizona, destroying the sanctity and peace of that really precious monument," said Case.

But tour operators said they don’t fly directly over the Arizona and the USS Missouri.

Instead, they said they fly over Ford Island and the harbor and then fly over the USS Bowfin on the mauka side of the harbor.

“No tour operator flies over the Missouri or the Arizona, it’s like stepping on the flag. It doesn’t happen,” said Richard Schuman, owner of Magnum Helicopters.

The tour operators also said banning flights over the harbor could jeopardize air safety.

That’s because the air space over the harbor is part of the eastbound route back to Honolulu Airport that’s set by air traffic controllers, they said.

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