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Bill Hicks

September 17, 2020

The Kailua Neighborhood Board letter of September 15, 2019 to Mr. Steve Dickson, Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration, Washington, DC and Ms. Nicole Vandelaar, Chairperson, Hawaii Helicopter Association Honolulu, Hawaii follows:

Subject: Tour Helicopter Flights over Kailua

Aloha Mr. Dickson and Ms. Vandelaar,

Kailua experienced a fatal helicopter crash on Oneawa Street on April 29th. This was the third helicopter crash in the Kailua-Kaneohe-Windward Oahu area in the 6 months between October 22, 2018 and April 29, 2019. Many members of our community expressed their safety concerns about commercial tour helicopters flying over Kailua. Residents are concerned about the public safety of our community on the ground, as well as the safety of passengers onboard the helicopters.

At our May 2, 2019 Kailua Neighborhood Board meeting the board unanimously passed the following motion:
The Kailua Neighborhood Board #31 supports our Elected Officials’ written request dated April 30th that the FAA and State Department of Transportation Airports Division immediately ground tour and commercial helicopter operations in our State until an investigation can be completed. In addition, the Board requests that commercial tour helicopter flights over Kailua be stopped immediately.

Our board subsequently established a Low Flying Commercial Tour Helicopter Flights Over Kailua Subcommittee which held several meetings with concerned residents and helicopter tour representatives and produced the following motion which was passed at our September 5, 2019 meeting:

RESOLUTION RELATING TO PUBLIC SAFETY AND URGENCY TO SUPPORT STRINGENT REGULATION AND ENFORCEMENT OF TOUR AIRCRAFT OPERATIONS OVER KAILUA (96734)
WHEREAS:
1. Ever increasing and widespread operation of tour helicopters and other small aircraft pose an increased safety risk to our communities when operated over densely populated areas. This has caused increasing and realistic concern for public safety in the aftermath of several accidents in close succession – specifically three helicopter crashes in Windward Oahu within a six (6) month period; and
2. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has comprehensively recommended to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Part 135 Air Tour Companies operating under Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) Part 135 – Operators (which include most tour helicopter operations on Oahu) that they implement the same safety requirements (appropriately scaled to the size of the operations) that apply to commercial airlines; and
3. A few tour operators operate at an even lower threshold of regulation as FAR Part 91 Commercial operators and are not subject to even the current safety requirements of Part 135 Operators; and
4. FAR Part 136 A addresses Air Tour Operations in Hawaii; and
5. Substantially increased regulation of tour operations for safety of people and property on the ground, as well as aircrew and passengers has been repeatedly called for over the past 10 years by the NTSB in the name of public safety; and
6. The community recognizes the efforts of individual air tour operators and the Hawaii Helicopter Association to address citizen concerns around both safety and noise; and
7. This community wants a level of safety that is called for by the NTSB’s 2019-2020 “Top 10 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements for Part 135 Operators” (https://www.ntsb.gov/safety/mwl/Pages/default.aspx) to include:
-Implementation of a Safety Management System and Fight Data Monitoring, appropriately scaled to the size of the operation, to detect and correct unsafe deviations from company procedures before an accident occurs.
-Implement standard procedures to eliminate unnecessary distractions in the cockpit for the pilot.
-Implement increased standards in maintenance quality assurance and FAA oversight of operations as recommended to the Tour Operators Program of Safety; and
8. The community believes that overflight of Kailua by tour operators on multiple flights a day when not subject to the safety regulations and procedures recommended as a top priority by the NTSB present an undue hazard to our citizens, our homes, and our island guests; and
9. The noise from frequent helicopter over flights negatively impacts health and quality of life;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE KAILUA NEIGHBORHOOD BOARD THAT:
1. The Board fully supports and endorses substantially increased regulation of Air Tour Operators and other small aircraft as set forth by the NTSB’s Top Ten Safety Recommendations pertinent to Air Tour Operations (https://www.ntsb.gov/safety/mwl/Pages/default.aspx); AND
2. The Board urges that the FAA require all Air Tour Operators in Hawaii to meet FAR Part 135 certification standards as a minimum level of public and aircrew safety; AND that the FAA create regulations to address:
-Setting clearly defined and strictly enforced regulatory flight paths for tour helicopters and small fixed-wing aircraft with safety considerations first and foremost;
-Regulating and enforcing tour helicopter operations to a minimum altitude of 2000 feet above the closest land mass, island community, public park, or building as safety permits;
-Regulating and enforcing tour helicopter operations to a minimum distance of one (1) mile off shore – as safety permits; AND
3. The Board requests that the Hawaii Helicopter Association members and other tour operators immediately and voluntarily stop tour helicopter overflights of densely populated areas of Kailua (96734) as defined by boundaries as depicted on the FAA Visual Flight Rules (VFR) Sectional (yellow areas). Furthermore, the Board requests that overflights of less densely populated areas of Kailua (96734) (green areas) utilize multiple different routes so that the frequency of overflights over any given location is substantially reduced. AND
4. The Board requests that the FAA formally eliminate helicopter tour overflights of Kailua altogether. AND
5. The Board requests that tour operators comply with all existing and pertinent regulations and that the FAA enforce all existing and pertinent regulations; AND
6. The Board urges that its federal, state and county elected and administrative government officials devote their full efforts to such substantially increased regulation in the interest of public safety: AND
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that copies of this resolution as adopted be transmitted to all members of Hawaii’s Congressional delegation, as well as to the Governor of the State of Hawaii, the Mayor of the City and County of Honolulu, State Senators, State Representatives, and City Council Member representing Kailua (96734), the FAA Administrator, the FAA Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety, U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and the Chairperson and ranking members of the U.S. House of Representatives on Transportation and Infrastructure.

We appreciate the rapid fashion in which the FAA promulgated Special Federal Aviation Regulation #71, which prohibits air tour airplanes and helicopters from flying below a minimum altitude of 1,500 feet in Hawaii, on September 26, 1994 following a series of 7 helicopter accidents in Hawaii in the first 9 months of 1994. We similarly request that the FAA take prompt action to adopt the National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendations, require all Air Tour Operators in Hawaii to meet FAR Part 135 certification standards, and halt commercial tour helicopter flights over Kailua.

Additionally, we appreciate the cooperation of the Hawaii Helicopter Association in considering interim processes that would voluntarily stop tour helicopter overflights of densely populated areas of Kailua and modify the overflights of less densely populated areas of Kailua so that the frequency of overflights over any given location is substantially reduced.

Sincerely,

William M. Hicks, Chairman

Post Author: HANSTF

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