No answers yet to March helicopter crashes

While the FAA has been lending more oversight to Hawai‘i helicopter tours in recent weeks, regulations weren’t changed, its spokesman said yesterday.

Few updates have been offered from government agencies regarding the Heli-USA helicopter crash that took the lives of four people and injured three in Princeville or the second crash days later that occurred March 8 at YMCA Camp Nauea in Ha‘ena.

With the exception of two preliminary reports into each of the crashes, the only change that has occurred is that an air tour inspection unit based in Honolulu has been in operation for roughly three weeks, Ian Gregor, FAA spokesman said.

“Now we’ve got a unit of people overseeing,” Gregor said.

The adaptation comes in the wake of several suggestions made by the National Transportation Safety Board, but Washington D.C. NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway said the investigations into both crashes are far from done, and could take as many as 18 months to complete.

But despite rumors that formal regulations have been rolled out in relation to the crash, he added, such is not the case.

The only regulation that has been recently implemented regarding air tours was set forth in February, before both crashes — and it was designed to align the rest of the nation closer to standards Hawai‘i already had in place, he said.

Prior to the two March Kaua‘i helicopter crashes, pontoons or life jackets have been a requirement on all air tours in the state for single-engine helicopters that travel beyond the shore of any island, regardless of whether the helicopter is within gliding distance of the shore, unless the helicopter is equipped with flotation devices or each person on-board is wearing approved flotation gear.

As for when any new regulations may be set forth, the FAA and NTSB aren’t offering a timeline.

“It’s impossible to say,” Holloway said.


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