NTSB blasts FAA for lack of safety measures after deadly 2019 Kauai helicopter crash

The National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday blasted the FAA for failing to implement safety measures for Hawaii helicopter tour companies.
Published: May. 10, 2022 at 7:07 PM HST|Updated: May. 10, 2022 at 7:24 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The National Transportation Safety Board blasted the Federal Aviation Administration for failing to implement safety measures for Hawaii helicopter tour companies.

It issued a report that blamed weather and bad judgement by a Safari Aviation helicopter pilot for a Dec. 26, 2019 crash on Kauai that killed seven people.

The NTSB said that had the FAA required Hawaii tour operators to provide weather training for its pilots and had it implemented safety management programs, the Kauai accident would not have happened.

“This tragedy should never have occurred. It was 100 percent preventable,” said NTSB Chair Jennifer Hommendy.

“Locally, there was minimal FAA oversight of the safety of air tour operations in Hawaii, particularly with respect to the kinds of decisions pilots were actually making during tour flights.”

U.S. Rep. Ed Case, a frequent critic of the FAA, agreed.

“We have a fundamental ignorance of basic safety protocols of the companies operating helicopters on Hawaii skies. We obviously have deficiencies in training, we have deficiencies in equipment,” said Case.

The FAA said it has implemented safety measures, including five weather cameras in Hawaii with 21 more coming.

“Air tour operators today can apply to the FAA’s voluntary safety management system program, and we have rule making underway to make these systems a requirement,” the FAA said in an emailed statement.

In a separate report, the NTSB said rainy conditions also contributed to the April 2019 Kailua helicopter crash, which killed the pilot and his two passengers.

But it also cited the inexperience of the pilot, who had only worked in Hawaii for two and a half weeks.

The NTSB said the pilot flying in turbulence at a faster speed than recommended when a rotor hit the cabin.

“It was combination of it being an extraordinarily difficult helicopter to fly and the fact that we had an inexperience pilot and we had an unusual downdraft,” said attorney Rick Fried, who has represent victims and the survivors of more than 50 helicopter crashes in Hawaii.

Rainbow Helicopters, which operated the copter that crashed in Kailua, and Safari Aviation had no immediate for comment.

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