Attorneys Want More FAA Oversight of Helitours

 - June 10, 2022, 11:19 AM
A pair of well-known aviation attorneys are calling for better FAA oversight of the helicopter tour industry.

A pair of well-known aviation attorneys said Wednesday’s crash of a Bell 407 helitour flight on Hawaii’s Big Island highlighted continued FAA oversight insufficiency of the industry. The helicopter, operated by Paradise Helicopters, crashed in a lava field. All six aboard survived, but two are seriously injured.

“Every one of the Hawaii air tour helicopter crashes we have handled have been preventable. Each one involved safety deficiencies in the pilot and operator of the helicopter or experienced malfunctions due to deficiencies in maintenance or manufacturer design,” said attorney Ladd Sanger. “These helicopters and pilots are pushed to their limits by the Hawaii operators and sometimes beyond,” added Sanger, explaining that “high utilization of helicopters, or many hours of flying time each day demands meticulous maintenance processes and adequate rest for the pilots. Malfunctions and mistakes, often fatal, result from such high utilization.”

Sanger and Rick Fried, the Hawaii-based co-counsel in a recent settlement obtained from Blue Hawaiian Helicopters, said much of the problem translates back to lax FAA oversight. “The FAA is not doing its job and using its authority to punish lax operators. The public trust in the FAA is, unfortunately, misplaced,” Fried said.  

Sanger, who is also a licensed helicopter pilot, agreed. “Attempts by segments of the aviation industry to self-regulate for safety purposes have never succeeded. Two notable examples are the pathetic safety records of the air tour industry and the air ambulance industry. Pressure from the FAA is an imperative to changing pilot, operator, maintainer, and manufacturer behaviors.”