Letters for Wednesday — April 26, 2006

• Responses fail (again) to address helicopter safety

• Just don’t do it

• Make concerns known

• Mahalo for celebration

Responses fail (again) to address helicopter safety

As I see it, there are four issues with Kaua’i’s helitour industry that need clarification: what are the provisions of SFAR 71 and its deviations, are they being respected, are they adequate, and would changing them make the heli-tour industry safer?

Mr. Smith was so anxious to insult me, he forgot to provide a single detail about SFAR 71 (Letters, 4/12). Not wishing to remain uninformed, I asked an FAA inspector in Honolulu who confirmed the 1,500′ limit over people and property, with the deviations allowing 500′ over designated scenic areas such as Waimea Canyon, and 200′ over knife-edge ridges.

Please don’t bother to respond next time unless you can tell us how or why helicopters fly lower on a tour without being in violation.

Mr. Becker (Letters, 3/31 and 4/15) gave an account of unsafe flying in low visibility. Unless the pilot and craft are specially certified for IFR (instrument flight rules), they should not be flying in clouds. Of course, operators don’t like to cancel tours and some pilots get caught in the fog, which is why IFR is also known as “I follow road.” Flying near the terrain in low visibility or unstable weather is exactly what led to all the recent crashes. Mr. Myers’ claim (4/12) that all recent accidents “were initially above ground at over 1,500′” is just plain false according to the NTSB reports. He goes on to blame the pilots “who made bad judgement calls.”

Now we really get to the heart of the matter. In the case of a crash, the operator blames the pilot who is either dead or who blames another pilot. But do pilots really have the final responsibility? Who is responsible for persuading customers not to cancel in borderline weather? Who pays pilots by the hour and has no-fly-no-pay leverage?

Why are pilots asked to narrate in addition to dealing with difficult flight conditions? Who threatens to withhold advertising when visitor magazines dare to mention a crash? Was Bali Hai’s deviation rescinded because of unsafe flying or the managers who encouraged it? Somebody needs to remind the operators that they have an obligation to safety before business. So I again suggest the FAA rescind all helicopter deviations so the industry can develop safe practices before there is another crash.

The real safety benefit of a 1,500′ flight minimum is to provide an extra 1,000′ feet of emergency maneuvering space, although to use it would technically be a violation. This makes it clear to pilots and operators that buzzing ridges and ducking under bad weather is not a safe way to fly, and enforcing this minimum will effectively prevent flights in borderline weather.

Mr. Myers contends there will be problems with airplane traffic at 1,500 feet. First, helicopters flights outnumber sightseeing planes by at least 20 to 1. Secondly, at 1,500′, helicopters will be above canyons in most places giving them more room to maneuver. Lastly, I believe the deviation for planes is 1,000′, so the two craft would still be separated by 500′. I realize planes and helicopters have different flight dynamics, but with radios and flight plans, it shouldn’t be a problem for qualified pilots.

Operators and pilots have made it clear they are not open to change, so I again encourage citizens to report violations. I also encourage customers to insist on safe flying and to demand unsafe weather refunds. It’s the only way the FAA will take notice and the industry will improve safety.

By the way, I am indeed a volunteer hike leader and activist with the Sierra Club, but here I speak for myself. I help people to explore, enjoy and protect Kaua’i’s natural beauty, and frankly, helicopters are a nuisance in many places. But noise is not a hidden agenda, it’s just another issue that the helitour industry is unwilling to talk about.

  • Andy Kass

Just don’t do it

Everywhere I look I see Christian videos and editorials coming against “The Da Vinci Codes.” To me it’s real simple. Instead of complaining that it’s a pack of lies, just don’t buy the book and don’t go to the movie. Just because Hollywood and television wants to produce a lot of trash doesn’t mean you have to buy their products. As the consumer you can control what is purchased and what is not. America claims to be 70-percent Christian. So why is this book selling so well? Let’s put our money where our mouth is. As the old saying goes, “Money talks, everything else walks.”

  • Peter R. Saker

Make concerns known

A principal benefit of a written constitution is to protect citizens from actions by government officials that are not in the public interest. The Kaua’i Charter is our county’s constitution.

One of the safeguard provisions it contains is the requirement that the selection and retention of the police chief is the determination of a police commission composed of independent citizens. The integrity of the police force and its leader are vital for our society.

At present we are witnessing a concerted effort by our elected political officials to achieve indirectly that which is forbidden for them to do directly. With the objective of removing our police chief they have launched an attack to intimidate and stack the police commission. Budgeting $150,000 for their purposes, they have perpetrated a proceeding to eliminate a member of the police commission favorable to the present chief and on superficial and sharply contested charges they have succeeded in pressuring his resignation. They are now engaged in pursuing a similar action against one or more of the other commissioners. They will soon try to have the emasculated commission act to oust the chief using claims that are unwarranted.

If the citizens of Kaua’i fail to act to resist this unprincipled manipulation of governmental power, a critical abuse and injustice will have occurred. We cannot have a responsible government if our leaders do not conform to the legal limitations that have been wisely placed on their powers.

Please register your distress about the conduct of our elected representatives by making your concerns known to the members of the Ethics Board that is engaged in attacking commission members, to the police commission members, and to the mayor and the members of the county council. If you don’t make your views heard, you are indirectly contributing to the abuses that are occurring.

  • Raymond L. Chuan
  • Walter S. Lewis

Mahalo for celebration

I would like to thank Mayor Bryan Baptiste and all that contributed to the Pu’uwai Aloha “A Giving Heart” celebration that honored the Kaua’i volunteers.

It is always nice to be thanked and appreciated for selfless deeds that contribute and strengthen our culture and island community. Thank you.

  • Arthur Styan

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