Case bill would tighten limits on tour flights
During last year’s heightened eruption at Kilauea Volcano, thousands of tourists flew over Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park to see flowing lava.
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During last year’s heightened eruption at Kilauea Volcano, thousands of
tourists flew over Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park to see flowing lava.
If Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) gets his way, they soon won’t be able to do that. Case is putting the heat on commercial air tour operators by proposing sweeping federal legislation designed to increase the safety of commercial air tours and address community disruption and other negative impacts of such operations.
Case’s legislation, the Proposed Safe and Quiet Skies Act, would “prohibit tour flights over military installations, national cemeteries, national wilderness areas, national parks, and national wildlife refuges.”
“Current law requires air tour management plans over national parks, but only the Grand Canyon National Park has one,” Case said, during a press conference Wednesday to introduce his new bill.
Case’s legislation also would require the use of standard equipment to monitor the location of tour flights, ban pilots from serving as tour guides during tour flights, prohibit tour flights lower than 1,500 feet over actual ground, and limit decibel levels of tour flights to those commonly applied to operations in
It directs the Federal Aviation Administration to implement the National Transportation Safety Board’s recommended enhanced safety regulations. Additionally, it allows states, localities, and tribes to impose stricter regulations on tour flights in their jurisdictions with required public engagement.
Case said his proposed legislation was precipitated by the role that the rapid rise in commercial helicopter and small plane overflights in Hawaii have played in negative resident sentiment about tourism. Case said he also was motivated by deadly crashes that have taken place on Oahu over the last few months.
An NTSB investigation is still ongoing into the April 29 crash of a tour helicopter operated by Novictor Helicopters, which crashed in the middle of a Kailua neighborhood killing all three people aboard. On June 21, the crash of a skydiving plane at Dillingham Airfield killed all 11 aboard. NTSB’s ongoing investigation prompted the agency to urge the FAA to follow earlier NTSB recommendations to increase regulations for aircraft that operate parachuting services.
Richard Schuman, president of Schuman Aviation Company Ltd., said Case’s legislation is too broad. Schuman said the proposed legislation should differentiate between planes and helicopters and that setting hard altitude limits is problematic. Schuman said the FAA allows pilots to deviate altitude for safety reasons. It also may vary so air traffic controllers can keep aircraft separated, he said.
Schuman said he recommends that Case spend more time talking to the
industry, which he said already self-regulates.
“We don’t want to be flying up there in a dangerous situation and the lives of these passengers that come from all over the world is definitely on the pilot’s mind,” Schuman said.
But Case said discussions with some members of the industry have been challenging.
“Some I’m hoping are listening here today and will say to the folks in their own industry … that we have got to do something about this because the public is saying this is enough on the safety side and the community disruption side,” he said.
Honolulu Attorney Bill McCorriston said he supports Case’s legislation.
On walks through Kakaako
Waterfront Park, McCorriston said he generally sees tour operators skirting recommended limits.
“I’m in favor of legislation because I don’t think that they can self-regulate since they don’t seem to be following the current rules,” McCorriston said.