Proposed Bill Would Effectively Eliminate Helicopter Tourism Nationwide

by Daine Taylor
Proposed Bill Would Effectively Eliminate Helicopter Tourism Nationwide

A bill proposed by Rep. Ed Case would effectively eliminate helicopter tourism by imposing more stringent restirctions of aircrafts flying lower than 1,500 feet. Photo: 

In the wake of a pair of deadly helicopter crashes in Hawaii, U.S. Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) has introduced a bill designed to impose more stringent restrictions on aircrafts flying lower than 1,500 feet above ground level. 

Under the proposed legislation, entitled the “Safe and Quiet Skies Act,” the Federal Aviation Administration would be required to approve safety measures, including flying no lower than 1,500 feet above ground level; prohibiting flights over military installations, national cemeteries, national wilderness areas, national parks, and national wildlife refuges; and forbidding pilots to act as tour narrators while flying.

It would also require helicopters to have a noise signature no greater than 55 dBA during flights over any “occupied area,” be it commercial, residential, or recreational.

These restrictions would effectively end the helicopter tourism industry nationwide, since no certified helicopters would be able to meet these heightened standards.

“My Safe and Quiet Skies Act will further mandate strict regulation of commercial air tour operations to address defense risks and community disruption, including no overflights of defense, park, cemetery, and other sensitive installations; and minimum altitude maximum noise limits on all flights,” said Case, during a press conference in Honolulu last week. 

“Additionally, it will allow states, localities, and tribes to impose stricter regulations on tour flights in their jurisdictions, to include time, route, and frequency, with required public engagement.” 

This most recent push for additional safety precautions comes in the wake of a pair a helicopter crashes in Kailua and at Dillingham Airfield in Hawaii. Eleven people died after a skydiving plane crashed at Dillingham Airfield in June, while three people aboard an air tour perished when their helicopter went down on a residential street in Kailua.  

According to Case, the number of commercial helicopter and small plane flights are increasing, which is disrupting communities statewide.   

If the bill is adopted, companies that fail to comply with the new regulations could face fines or lose their certifications and permits to operate. Case intends to introduce the bill to Congress this month.

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