Lawmakers renew push for regulations after helicopter emergency landing at Aloha Stadium

The company, Rainbow Helicopters, described the incident as a “precautionary landing."
Published: Aug. 31, 2022 at 2:47 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 31, 2022 at 10:32 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A helicopter made an emergency landing at the Aloha Stadium parking lot on Wednesday afternoon.

It happened around 2:20 p.m., according to the Honolulu Fire Department, which said it received a call for a medical injury and dispatched one unit to the scene.

The chopper is owned by Rainbow Helicopters, the same company that operated the helicopter involved in a deadly crash in Kailua in 2019.

The company described the incident as a “precautionary landing.”

One pilot and three passengers exited the aircraft uninjured and declined medical attention, said HFD.

Officials said the parking lot was closed and there were no events at the stadium at the time of the landing. In addition, the helicopter was not damaged.

“The pilot conducted the landing being conservative and made a normal touchdown in the parking lot,” Rainbow Helicopters said in a statement. “Rainbow is cooperating with the investigation, and with the authorities... Safety is our number one priority and our pilot followed standard safety policies and protocols.”

“Obviously, he thought something was serious enough where he had to do something quickly,” said aviation expert Peter Forman.

A flight tracker app showed the Airbus A-Star skirted Oahu’s south coast, then flew up Windward Oahu along the Koolau mountains, and then down Central Oahu, making it almost back to HNL.

“If you fly a tour or a regular route, you should actually, in your mind, get to know the places where you would most likely want to go, and obviously that’s one of them, so he probably already had a feel for it,” said Forman.

Forman said that if he were in the same situation, he’d also go to Aloha Stadium’s empty parking lot.

Helicopter makes emergency landing near Aloha Stadium

#BREAKING LIVE: A helicopter has made an emergency landing at the Aloha Stadium parking lot. Here's what we know so far. #HINews #HNN

Posted by Hawaii News Now on Wednesday, August 31, 2022

After about two hours on the ground, the company’s own repair crew cleared the helicopter to fly the final few miles to Honolulu airport.

U.S. Rep. Ed Case has been critical of the tour helicopter industry. He recently released a newsletter, in which he said he’s working with federal agencies to get pilots to follow altitude requirements and, when possible, fly offshore instead of over homes.

Under a new state law — that took effect just last month — helicopter companies must provide the state with more information.

“We required tour helicopter companies to report the basic flight patterns, where they’re going, how many people they’re going up with, are they deviating from their route over residential communities, things like that,” said State Sen. Chris Lee, who chairs the Senate transportation committee and authored the bill.

Lee said the state was never able to collect that information when looking into past crashes.

“Now we’ll have hard data, and that’s sort of the first step to figure out how to prevent this sort of stuff from happening going into the future.”

Another law that took effect also establishes a Hawaii Air Tour Noise and Safety Task Force, which Lee said will include transportation officials, the FAA, the National Transportation Safety Board and helicopter operators.