My family has lived in Maunawili for over 20 years. Our once peaceful valley is now inundated by commercial tour helicopters that crisscross our home all day, every day. Prior to Covid, there was a tour helicopter overhead every 4-5 minutes. With the resurgence of tourism, these numbers have once again become unbearable.
Tour helicopters fly over our community even on rainy, cloudy days, despite their lack of the equipment needed to navigate safely under these conditions. This lack of equipment is evidenced by the tragic tour helicopter crash that occurred under overcast conditions in Kailua Town in 2019 when the pilot, who was operating under only Visual Flight Rules, became disoriented by cloud cover. This is a huge safety concern for communities on the Windward side of the island where weather patterns are often unpredictable (which tour operators have openly stated).
Covid has opened our eyes to the blight the tour industry has been on our island, in our skies (from tour helicopters and small fixed-wing tour aircraft), and the harm it has had on communities throughout Oahu and across all islands. This is our opportunity to make a change. Other communities have been able to reign in the tour helicopter industry; we need to fight for the same. We need to do something now so that the health and welfare of our communities are once again valued over the tourist buck.