November 26, 2020
The out-of-control tour helicopter industry on Oahu needs to be addressed. We have lived and raised our family in Maunawili for 20 years. Over the past 4-5 years, we have been inundated with tour helicopters and their incessant drone in our peaceful valley. During the peak tourist summer season prior to Covid, there were as many as 14 helicopters overhead/hour…that is one EVERY FOUR MINUTES!
Tour helicopters fly over Mt. Olomana and into the Maunawili Community even on rainy, cloudy, despite their lack of the equipment needed to navigate safely under these conditions. The need for this equipment is evidenced by the tragic tour helicopter accident that occurred under overcast conditions in Kailua Town in 2019. Because tour helicopters are only capable of operating under Visual Flight Rules (VFR), it is especially dangerous to those of us living on the Windward side of the Island where weather conditions are unpredictable (a fact that the tour operators have openly acknowledged).
We have had face-to-face conversations with the Hawaii Helicopter Association and various helicopter tour operators about our safety and noise concerns. While some operators (Novictor and Hawaii Pacific Aviation) have made some adjustments to occasionally vary their routes, others continue to blast our homes with impunity. One operator, in particular, has operated uncontrolled/unregulated by the FAA for so long that he deems himself “untouchable”. At a 2019 Kailua Board meeting, this operator actually taunted a concerned citizen saying “good luck” trying to enact any control over the tour helicopter industry since no one has been successful in doing so after 25 years of trying. SERIOUSLY??…this has been an issue for 25 YEARS and nothing has been done to effectively control the helicopter tour industry? It is not a wonder that we find ourselves in this desperate situation with a tour helicopter industry gone amuck.
Through our collective voices across all Islands, I am hoping we can make changes to the tour helicopter industry so that the health and welfare of our communities are valued over the tourist buck.