Letters for Wednesday —April 12, 2006

• Helicopter tour operator responds

• Pilot takes exception to Statements

• Blair doesn’t speak for me

Helicopter tour operator responds

This company (Safari Helicopter Tours) challenged SFAR 71 in court because we knew that it was a “noise” issue and not a safety issue. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals deferred to the FAA as the “experts” and deemed our suit as “moot” because the FAA corrected the language of the first extension of SFAR 71. They deleted noise and cultural issues as part of SFAR 71 in subsequent extensions. Our biggest disappointment was the denial by 9th Circuit to remand this case to a lower court in order for us to subpoena the FAA under oath to determine the truth. Since our court filing and during our appeal process, we discovered through a FOIA request that in fact a politician interfered and influenced the FAA to promulgate an “Emergency Rulemaking” after the accidents of 1994. It is illegal for a politician to interfere or influence a bureaucracy to issue an “Emergency Rulemaking.” Accident rates are determined by accidents per 100,000 flights or flight hours.

The FAA combined all the airplane accidents and used whole numbers as the basis for a safety issue to “pump” their case up. In fact, the helicopter air tours in Hawai’i had a much lower accident rate than the nation as a whole. The rate was documented by the Hawaii Helicopter Operators Association (HHOA) and submitted to the FAA and was ignored.

ted The industry had a concern with putting helicopters up in the same environ-ting environment with airplanes at 1,500′ creating potential mid-air accidents because of the compressed air traffic at the same altitude for air tours. We videotape our tours and captured a very close mid-air accident (within 150′) with a twin-engine airplane at a very high speed on the Big Island.

This tape was submitted both to the FAA and NTSB and deviation authority was issued to all helicopter operators shortly afterwards to create a safe vertical separation of air traffic.

We also contended that SFAR 71 may increase fatalities because it put helicopters in the same environment as airplanes.

ters The total fatalities on Kaua’i prior to SFAR 71 were four for the previous 15 years. The total fatalities on Kaua’i post SFAR 71 have been 14 in only 11 years.

We predicted this scenario and challenged the politically motivated, ill-conceived SFAR 71.

All the accidents that occurred on Kaua’i were initially above ground at over 1,500′. The pilots made bad judgment calls and they should have not been where they were when the accidents occurred. No regulation will prevent bad judgment.

The first operator to have an accident post SFAR 71 had its deviation authority rescinded. On all the other accidents, the offending operator was not punished but the industry itself received more restrictions to their deviation authority.

tions Also, SFAR 71 does not apply to charter flights that are not sightseeing in ter nature and the pilot is allowed to fly at any altitude except they must be at least 300′ above the ground when flying over a community or city or at an altitude not to endanger persons or property on the ground.

  • Preston Myers
    President, Safari Helicopter Tours

Pilot takes exception to statements

Mr. Kass in his diatribe against Kaua’i helicopter operators conveniently does not mention the fact that he is a member of the Hawaii Chapter of the Sierra Club.

It is apparent that he, like the wannabe “licensed pilot” who started this unwarranted attack on our industry in a letter to the editor a few days ago, doesn’t have a clue as to what the provisions of SFAR 71 are. In fact, both do a public disservice by making such uninformed statements in our community newspaper. Naturally, neither of these gentlemen appreciates how hard we as Kaua’i helicopter pilots strive to fly safely and friendly with regard to our passengers and the Garden Island population. Their agendas, regardless of the facts, take precedence. From Mr. Kass’ lengthy missive, I conclude that if ignorance is bliss, he is truly a happy person. Suffice it to say that he obviously harbors falsities concerning helicopter tour operations beyond the power of reasonable logic or persuasion to correct.

As a helicopter pilot on this island for the past nine years, I take exception to most of his statements, the most egregious of which is, “Between booking more customers on bad weather days and joyriding, it seems like business reasons over-riding, override passenger safety.” Mr. Kass sounds like a Bill O’Reilly on steroids, and in the event that he misses the point, that is not intended to be a flattering comparison.

  • William J. Smith

Blair doesn’t speak for me

Attention Sam Blair: Having read your “Speaks for the Community” letter to the Forum (4/6) I must wonder whether this is the same Sam Blair who started the Ohana Kauai organization. Then you were an advocate for the people going after issues of concern to our citizens. While the people thanked you and applauded your leadership you disappeared — never telling anyone why. Fortunately the Ohana movement survived and prospered in your absence.

Now you appear to have found a new client as your letter certainly does not speak for the community, but instead for the government officials who are seeking the removal of Police Chief K. C. Lum.

Using the magician’s trick of misdirecting public attention your focus was on trying to discredit Commissioner Ching, a supporter of Chief Lum. Even here your letter misstates the facts. You say that Lum is not qualified to be our chief. Section 11.04 of the Kaua’i County Charter sets forth the qualifications required for a Police Chief and they are clearly met by Mr.

Lum. You then argue that Lum’s selection was made in a kabuki dance and refer to a report of the Hearing Officer used by the Kaua’i Board of Ethics in the questionable proceeding it convened to consider a police officer’s complaint about Mr. Ching.

The Hearing Officer concluded that “although the evidence tends to establish a bias on the part of at least some of the Commission members, it does not establish any specific violation of the Charter or the (Kaua’i County) Code by Mr. Ching.” At most this conclusion only indirectly affects Chief Lum.

You fail to remember that the people backing our Chief are those who have no “dog” in this fight and are satisfied with the way Lum and his officers are fighting crime and busting drug dealers and users.

We have petitions with signatures from hundreds of citizens verifying their backing of the Chief.

You go on in your letter, Sam, to criticize The Garden Island for their factual, for their factual, in-depth reporting on the whole issue.

When you were an advocate for the people you would have been applauding our new editor for his article and not questioning his motives nor his credibility. Adam Harju is a breath of fresh air for the paper and at one time you would have said the same thing.

In my opinion, the process is a huge conspiracy by our county leaders to oust an honest, dedicated person from his position as Chief where he is doing everything in his power to better the Police Department and eradicate this Island’s biggest problem — drugs! He is succeeding because he has no nepotism or connections to get in his way when he busts the dealers and users. It seems that only those who are unwilling to see him succeed are pushing to get him fired. Regrettably, if they succeed in their destructive mission, we, the people, will be the losers.

  • Glenn Mickens Kapa’a

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