December 3, 2020
We have lived full-time at the Mauna Lani Resort in South Kohala in HI for the last 9 years. In June 2018, we particularly noticed helicopters flying directly over the Mauna Lani Resort above a place we had just purchased. After investigating further and using the FlightTracker24 app, we determined that Paradise Helicopters was regularly flying over not only the Mauna Lani Resort, but Puako, Mauna Kea Resort and Waikoloa Beach.
We had a conversation with Paradise Helicopters and they agreed to come out to do a sound test at a parking lot of the Fairmont Orchid with a helicopter flying over at 1500 and 2500 ft. While we knew that it was legal to fly over residential areas as long as it was above 1500 ft., it was clear to use that not only was the noise an issue (even at 2500′), but the safety of those on the ground was as well if there were ever a mechanical problem on the helicopter.
After a long discussion, Paradise Helicopters agreed to not fly over the north end of the Mauna Lani resort and has kept its promise up until now.
All that said, there are a number of points to be made:
1. Blue Hawaiian Helicopters has regularly been operating out of a location on Queen K Hwy between Waikoloa Beach and Mauna Lani Resort for many years. They use 6 Airbus Eco-Stars with enclosed tail rotors (which help mitigate noise) and have always practiced aloha by NEVER flying over any of the coastal resorts and towns.
2. Paradise Helicopters, which operates out of Kona and Hilo, flies Bell 407 helicopters that have no enclosed tail rotors, have a loud sound signature and up until Covid-19 grounded the helicopter tour companies, still regularly flews over the populated coastal resorts and towns. When discussing with them why they flew over the resorts, they said “our customers want to see where they are staying….”.
3. There are a number of Robinson Raven helicopters with no enclosed tail rotors (loud sound signature) based out of Kona, that are now regularly flying over the coast resorts and towns. Please see the attached pdf.
4. Private fixed wing aircraft and Mokulele Airlines also fly regularly over the coastal resorts and towns.
While the majority of the time aircraft are above the height of populated residential areas as the FAA requires, there is still noise that is clearly heard for those on the ground. A Bell 407 with its sound signature can be heard from miles away as it approaches and I have timed the noise from start to finish as it flies nearby from anywhere from 2 – 2 1/2 minutes. Some fixed wing aircraft even at 3500 ft are loud and again, the noise can last minutes. Multiply these typical flights by the numerous times a day that they fly over or just near us, and it is a regular cacophony for those of us on the ground who live open air or are recreating outdoors.
It seems incongruous that the needs of small amounts of passengers in a helicopter or plane should disrupt the daily lives of the many thousands of people who live and vacation at the coastal resorts and towns below, not only because of noise but also of safety. Those of us who live here and of course the vacationers, come to Hawaii Island precisely to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city life. As mentioned previously, there is aloha practiced by Blue Hawaiian Helicopters, who fly AROUND the coastal resorts and towns respectfully maintaining a distance so as not to be a nuisance or a safety hazard. There is ocean makai and much unpopulated land mauka of the Kohala coast to fly over. Why can’t the FAA require certain air corridors be used by all aircraft so it minimizes safety and noise issues over populated areas everywhere on Hawaii Island? If the FAA should decide to do so, there should be mandatory fines for those aircraft that fail to abide by the rules.