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Wednesday, May 01, 2019
Kailua Crash Kills 3: Case, Thielen ask FAA to Ground Helicopters
By Rep Cynthia Thielen @ 4:39 AM :: 1104 Views :: Congressional Delegation, Tourism

To Hawai’i Congressional Delegation

Aloha,       April 29, 2019 

As you know, a commercial helicopter crashed this morning in one of the busiest residential areas in State House District 50. This is the second helicopter crash in my District since Oct. 22, 2018. Sadly, three people were killed in today's crash. Three people were severely injured in the Oct. crash. Both helicopters were owned by Novictor Helicopters. Additionally, less than two weeks ago, another commercial helicopter on contract to DLNR went down in Windward Oahu in a "hard landing".

I am asking for your help in immediately grounding tour and commercial helicopter operations in our State until an investigation can be completed regarding today's tragedy.  Since the FAA is the governing authority over airspace, this is best initiated through Hawaii's Congressional Delegation.

Residents throughout our State have long complained about the lack flight plans and rules regulating commercial and tour helicopters. Concerns vary from general annoyance to fears of aircraft falling from the sky. Today their worst fears were realized. As elected officials it is our responsibility to protect our constituents. We must act now.

Mahalo for your prompt action,

Representative Cynthia Thielen

50th District (Kailua, Kaneohe Bay)

  *   *   *   *   *

Raquel Girvin

Regional Administrator, Western-Pacific Region, Federal Aviation Administration

Dear Administrator Girvin:    April 30, 2019

As you know, yesterday a tour helicopter crashed in a residential neighborhood in Kailua, O'ahu, Hawai'i. Tragically, the pilot and two passengers were killed. By sheer happenstance, as the neighborhood is a moderately dense urban residential area, no one on the ground was injured.

I assume the causes of the crash have not yet been identified, and am informed that the National Transportation Safety Board has opened an investigation. However, the commercial operator of the helicopter, Novictor Helicopters, sustained another incident on October 22, 2018 when the same model of helicopter crash-landed in Kane'ohe Bay, O'ahu and three people were seriously injured.

Novictor owns and operates several helicopters, which, along with several other helicopter operators, are routinely utilized for air tours over Kailua and many other residential and other occupied areas throughout O'ahu and other Hawaiian islands. These tours number upwards of 50-plus times per day most every day, operate in most all weather, and routinely fly over such areas at substantially lower altitudes than the I ,500 feet above actual ground level required absent waiver.

Immediately after yesterday's tragedy, Hawai'i State Representative Cynthia Thielen, who represents Kailua, wrote to the Hawai'i congressional delegation requesting that all tour and commercial helicopter operations throughout the state be immediately grounded until yesterday's crash is investigated. A copy of Representative Thielen's letter is enclosed.

I write to you with three urgent requests related to Hawai'i tour helicopter operations in light of yesterday's incident. First, could you please detail the steps that will now be taken to identify the causes of the accident and the options for federal government action both currently and after conclusion of the investigation to protect the public.

Second, could you please respond to Representative Thielen's request for immediate grounding pending the results of investigation, to include whether all tour helicopters should be prohibited from overflying any residential or other occupied areas of Hawai'i. Please note in this regard that today, just one day after this tragedy which narrowly avoided impacting residences as well, tour helicopter operations are continuing throughout Hawai'i including overflights of residential and other occupied areas.

Third, as you know, I wrote to you on April 4, 2019 (copy attached) regarding rapidly accelerating concerns with increasing helicopter tours throughout Hawai'i. These included the apparent widespread disregard by tour operators for minimum altitude restrictions and apparent control by the operators of the current process to update the Hawai'i Air Tour Common Procedures Manual governing time, place, altitude and other safety and noise-related operations requirements. I ask for your expedited response and your recommitment, on behalf of the Federal Aviation Administration, to place the safety, security and quality of life of Hawaii's residents and visitors first and foremost in your application of federal law and regulations governing helicopter tour operations in Hawai'i.

Thank you in advance for your assistance in reviewing and responding to these urgent questions. I remain available to work fully with FAA on this critical matter.

With aloha,

Congressman Ed Case

Hawai'i - First District

Enclosures:

  *   *   *   *   *

SENATORS CALL ON STATE, FAA TO GROUND HELICOPTERS IN WAKE OF FATAL KAILUA CRASH

News Release from Senate Democratic Caucus, April 30, 2019

HONOLULU – Four Hawaii State Senator have sent a letter to the State Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration, calling for an immediate statewide grounding of tour and commercial helicopter operations, or a ban on all commercial helicopter flights over residential neighborhoods until an investigation into Monday’s fatal crash of a tour helicopter in Kailua can be completed.

Senators Stanley Chang (District 9), Jarrett Keohokalole (District 24), Gil Riviere (District 23), and Laura Thielen (District 25) signed the letter, stating, “As elected officials it is our responsibility to protect our constituents.” The site of Monday’s crash is located in Senate District 25.

Monday’s incident, in which three people died, was the second helicopter crash in the District since an October 22, 2018 incident that left three people severely injured. Another commercial helicopter made a “hard landing” in Windward Oahu less than two weeks ago.

“Residents throughout our State have long complained about the lack of flight plans and rules regulating commercial and tour helicopters,” the letter said. “Concerns vary from general annoyance to fears of aircraft falling from the sky. Today our worst fears were realized.”

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