December 2, 2020
I live in AInaloa subdivision near Pahoa. I have been at this property for 20 years. It was 2008 when we first noticed helicopters flying over. We contacted the FAA and spoke with Andy Levin at the Mayor’s office to see what could be done about the noise. Little did we know what was coming. Fast forward to 2017, 2018, helicopters were buzzing our house all day every day of the week, including Sundays, holidays, even Christmas Day. When the lava began to flow helicopters began bothering a new set of residents, and in August 2018 crowded public meetings took place with angry residents threatening to shoot helicopters out of the sky. Incessant noise is a health hazard and a nuisance and it DOES NOT belong in areas where people reside. Helicopter noise makes me and my family agitated, on edge, unable to focus and generally elevates the stress levels of all. Imagine having to leave your home to find peace and feeling anxiety as you return knowing the noise will be there.
It has been suggested that if I don’t like it I could move. Unfortunately, as we saw in Leilani helicopters can come to your neighborhood at any time. Where should I go? Also, it must be said that there were NO helicopters here when I purchased my property. The noise and nuisance that tour companies create is a massive taking, noise must be declared on a disclosure agreement at the time of sale, this in turn reduces viability of the property and lowers the property value. If my property is worth less due to helicopter noise then I, and all of my neighbors must be compensated for this taking. Moving house for hundreds of residents is just not feasible physically or fiscally. Establishing Helicopter flight paths away from residents is SO SIMPLE, there is plenty of open space on the Island. Then real property will be safe from future takings, and tour companies will not incur lawsuits.
In March of this year, COVID grounded helicopters, Peace has been restored. I hear a hawk crying from a nest nearby. Sunday as I worked, a red crested cardinal sat outside my window.
Now, in the last few days I have heard random helicopters flying. December 1st they began just after 9am; 9;03, 9:11,9:22, 9:25, 9:40, 9:43, 10:19, 10:38, 12:02. My husband declared “they’re back” and I felt my shackles rise.
Helicopter overflights have NO place in a residential neighborhood. Their noise is above the legally acceptable decibel level. The limit for outdoor areas with human activity is 55 decibels, and the limit of safety before hearing loss is 70 decibels. I have measured this noise myself, often way and above 80 or 90 Db, sometimes in excess of 100Db. Now if this was an isolated incident the health impacts may be negligible, but when this level of noise if passing over frequently, often every 2-3 minutes, it amounts to constant noise pollution and this is a breach of the Law and must be penalized. 70 Db has been identified as the level where people can start to experience hearing loss, if exposed over and over again. As demonstrated on Oneawa Street in Kailua helicopters can also crash. If a helicopter crashes over empty land the risk falls squarely upon those who chose to sit in the helicopter, not the residents below.
I believe Eric Lincoln said it best at the March 21, 2019 televised meeting with Joy San Buenaventura, Rep. Cynthia Thielen, Chris Lee and others, when he stated “We’ve spent 100 million dollars on quiet technology but the noise isn’t the problem, IT’S THE FREQUENCY“. Even Eric Lincoln is aware of the problem his company and others create. He is also acutely aware that flight paths fall under Federal jurisdiction, marking him safe.
Prior to COVID we would often go out to escape the noise. Now we are being asked to stay safer at home. Both my children are at home, online schooling every day. How are they supposed to focus on school work if Helicopter Nuisance resumes? How are they to be safe when their hearing and health is at risk?
To this end I would offer these solutions:
1.All Helicopter Tour companies’ commercial business licenses to be revoked BY THE STATE. A new application process needs to take place. If tour companies cannot agree to a State/ County Drawn pre-determined “path of least impact” flight plan then they should not have their commercial business licenses renewed. A Helicopter Flight Path needs to be drawn up. Start by taking a Big Island map and blacking out all the subdivisions. Then look at all the open spaces – State lands, Federal Lands, and then Major Private Landowners if needed. Residential areas, Hawaiian Homelands, and small private landowners should be avoided at all costs. I have included three maps for your reference. It would seem that some of the “legal” problems may be due to the fact that almost all of the Big Island is zoned “Agriculture Resource” on the State Land Use map. Nothing could be further from the truth. My subdivision was deemed for taxation purposes “residential” in 2019, which means I now pay almost a third more in tax for no additional resources. Ainaloa is RESIDENTIAL and growing, 8 houses have been built on my street in the last 12 months. This matter needs to be addressed with and by the State. Helicopters MUST BE MANDATED TO AVOID RESIDENTIAL AREAS, or risk losing their licenses/permits. I am sure there are other companies out there who would jump at the chance to fly with Aloha.
In addition I believe helicopter companies should not be permitted to use the words “Hawaiian” or ”Aloha” in any of their business material, including nomenclature if they are not conforming with the Spirit of Aloha that the residents and State are asking from them.
2.Local law entities such as the State and County of Hawaii assist/ oversee the drawing up of said flight maps and to revise the permit issuance process to include legally binding language that dictates helicopters must fly ONLY in agreed zones or face loss of license/permit. Also I would ask the County to employ an officer here on the Big Island who residents can call if and when tour helicopters deviate from their course. At this time there are only FAA and DOT contacts on Oahu and often this goes to a message machine. When I have spoken with FAA and DOT both insist they cannot help and it is the responsibility of the other. Someone outside of these two departments needs to be employed to say, “This is my responsibility”. Infractions need to be dealt with real-time. In addition, a Health Department contact needs to be available when Helicopters fly below the FAA dictated altitude.
3. ADSB transponders need to be installed in ALL HELICOPTERS without exception, so that height and location can be determined for the entire duration of their flights.
4.I would like to see Hilo airport undertake a Land Use/ Environmental Impact/ Noise Study in the locations helicopters intend to fly (as drawn up on the map). As the crow flies my house is only 15 miles to ITO, in any other city this would be considered a suburb, yet it was never considered in any of the permits that were issued to helicopter companies.
Keaukaha properties have been awarded Department of Transportation and FAA monies in excess of 2 million dollars for noise attenuation. Obviously Keaukaha abuts the airport and cannot relocate, but helicopters can. There is no need to create noise where people live. Would it not be a better use of time and money to establish open spaces where helicopters are permitted to fly BEFORE helicopters are issued permits? This could alleviate future lawsuits and save the FAA and DOT a lot of time and money.
In the January 9 meeting posted on your website you stated one of your key issues was how to include the community in this effort moving forward. I would like to see one of the key members of HICOP involved in your meetings and panels. These volunteers have devoted countless hours of research, community outreach, nationwide solution searches and have liased with the general public on this matter since their inception in 2016. If there is anyone more in connection with the community on this matter you would be hard pressed to find them. Other cities such as New York and Los Angeles, have drawn up solutions to this helicopter noise problem. This is not a new problem, there are viable solutions out there. We can take a page from the collective book and do what is right by the residents of Hawaii Island. If you want to hear from the Public then you need to include members of the public (preferably those who have been subjected to Helicopter noise) in your meetings and solutions.
This is my experience. These are my solutions.