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Neighborhood board asks FAA to end helicopter flights over Kailua

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Investigators look over the wreckage of a helicopter on April 30 after the chopper crashed on Oneawa Street in Kailua, killing the pilot and his two passengers. The Kailua Neighborhood Board has sent a request to the FAA to ban tour helicopter flights over the community.

The Kailua Neighborhood Board has passed a resolution asking for a federal ban of all tour helicopters over the beach community, and has sent a formal letter to the Federal Aviation Administration outlining details of that request.

On Sunday, board chair Bill Hicks sent a letter to Steve Dickson, administrator of the FAA, as well as Nicole Vandelaar, chairperson of the Hawaii Helicopter Association.

“Kailua experienced a fatal helicopter crash on Oneawa Street on April 29th,” said Hicks in the letter. “This was the third helicopter crash in the Kailua-Kaneohe-Windward Oahu area in the 6 months between October 22, 2018 and April 29, 2019. Many members of our community expressed their safety concerns about commercial tour helicopters flying over Kailua. Residents are concerned about the public safety of our community on the ground, as well as the safety of passengers onboard the helicopters.”

The resolution, which the Kailua board considered on Sept. 5, urged the FAA to set a minimum altitude of 2,000 feet above the closest land mass, island community, public park and building, and that they remain at least a mile off-shore, as safety permits.

In addition, it sought to “formally restrict” helicopter tour overflights over Kailua altogether.

On Sept. 5, the board voted to pass an amended version of the resolution, which sought to “formally eliminate” rather than “formally restrict” helicopter tour overflights of Kailua altogether.

There were 10 votes in support of the resolution, one vote against it and one abstention, according to Claudine Tomasa, chair of the board’s Public Safety, Public Health, and Civil Defense Committee.

The committee formed a low-flying commercial helicopter subcommittee to address safety issues, which included members of the Hawaii Helicopter Association and other pilots in the community. The subcommittee in mid-August forwarded a draft of the resolution to the full neighborhood board for consideration.

In May, the board also had requested that the FAA and state Department of Transportation Airports Division immediately ground tour and commercial helicopter operations following the fatal April 29 helicopter crash on Oneawa Street. The helicopter, a Robinson R44 operated by Novictor Helicopter, crashed into the street, resulting in the death of the pilot and his two passengers.

No tours were grounded following the accident and the National Transportation Safety Board, which released its preliminary findings, has yet to release a final investigation report, with probable cause.

Additionally, the board wants tour helicopters to voluntarily stop overflights of densely populated areas of Kailua, and to modify their flight paths so that all tours are not concentrated over one neighborhood.

Hicks had said in an earlier interview that the matter of regulating helicopters over Kailua has become more of a safety issue than a noise and nuisance issue.

“I think that the resolution accurately reflects what people in Kailua are asking for,” he said in an earlier interview.

A copy of the letter was also forwarded to U.S. congressional representatives overseeing transportation, all of Hawaii’s congressional representatives, Gov. David Ige, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, state legislative leaders and city council members representing the area, the FAA associate administrator for aviation safety, and the frontline manager of the FAA Honolulu Flight Standards District Office.

The safety committee, meanwhile, plans to continue meeting with helicopter tour operators to discuss alternative pathways over Kailua.

Kailua Neighborhood Board letter to FAA by Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Scribd

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