In wake of Big Island chopper crash, lawmakers renew push for more regulations
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There’s a renewed push for regulation of the chopper tour industry after another crash this week on the Big Island.
Six people were injured when a Paradise Helicopters Bell 407 crashed into a lava field in Ka’u.
“I’ve been involved now in 50 helicopter crashes in my practice,” said attorney Rick Fried. “Having that many crashes is unbelievable, that’s just me as one lawyer.”
Attorney Rick Fried just settled a lawsuit with K&S Helicopters, the operator of Paradise Helicopters, for a 2019 incident near Hauula. A passenger who was injured said the aircraft ran out of gas.
State Sen. Chris Lee, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, has been working on legislation that would require tour chopper companies to provide information on each flight ― similar to a flight plan.
“We’ve had this long string of many many years of crashes, dozens of fatalities and nothing has changed so why should we expect the outcomes to change.”
U.S. Rep. Ed Case has also been working on various types of legislation as the crashes have become more frequent.
Case cites another 2019 crash that killed seven people on Kauai. That crash was ruled “preventable” by federal investigators.
The chopper went down after the pilot pressed on despite encountering bad weather.
Case said cameras, remotely operated in various parts of the state could make a difference by providing updated information when the weather changes.
“The pilot and ground crew can know what the weather is like in a particular situation,” Case said.
More than 24 cameras are supposed to be installed but so far, the FAA has only put in a handful across Hawaii.
Meanwhile, Lee said the state will have to be more aggressive on the ground.
“Helicopter tour companies have to register with the state as business,” he said.
“They have to lease land in airports and other spaces to run their operations so if, for example, folks aren’t complying and lives continue to be lost, the state does have the ability to come in with a heavy hammer and say you know what, we’re ending leases.”
A bill that would give the state more control of the industry is on the governor’s desk awaiting his signature.
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