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Debra Laeha

July 18, 2021

The Waimanalo Community is being inundated with commercial tour helicopters (and more recently with new fixed-winged tour operators). The volume of these tours is grossly unregulated and has become a huge safety and health issue for our communities (as evidenced by the helicopter crash in Kailua and countless emergency landings over the years).

My family lives in Maunawili. All flights that fly over Waimanalo fly into Maunawili. Tour helicopters are allowed to fly whenever, wherever they choose (with little direction from the Kaneohe MCBH tower which only “warns” pilots about inclement weather or military flights–as confirmed in a tour of Kaneohe MCBH tower operations by a Sub-Committee of the Kailua Neighborhood Board).

Unfortunately, all but a few of the commercial tour flights that depart HNL Airport fly through East Oahu communities, through Waimanalo, over Mt. Olomana, into Maunawili, and then onto Kaneohe. Pre-Covid, the volume of tour helicopters over Waimanalo/Olomana/Maunawili (based on data from the FlightRadar24 app) had reached a tipping point. We averaged a helicopter overhead every 4 to 5 minutes from 7 am to 6 pm—every day. It became so unbearable that my family actually considered moving from our home of 20+ years. Then we realized that there was no place to go! We are buzzed by helicopters while at our family property in Pupukea, at Ho’omaluhia in Kaneohe, Diamond Head, at Makapuʻu beach, on hiking trails, at City and State parks, and while having coffee in Manoa. There is virtually no escaping the incessant drone of these helicopters. The quiet skies created by Covid highlighted how dire the problem had become. We were overjoyed to hear the birds again. While the volumes have not quite reached these levels, they have already become unbearable–and international tourists are not even here yet!

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE HELP US GET OUR SKIES BACK SO WE CAN FEEL SAFE AND PEACEFUL IN OUR OWN HOMES AGAIN.
Prohibit commercial tours from flying over our communities and have them fly one mile offshore. The tourists will still get to experience the beauty of the Island, but not at the cost of we Kama’aina that call this place home.

Post Author: HANSTF