Hawaii residents seek relief from tour helicopter noise
Posted September 1
HILO, Hawaii — Residents on Hawaii's Big Island are working with local officials to reduce the noise from tourist helicopters buzzing past their homes.
A group of residents stood outside the Hilo International Airport on Tuesday and decried the noise, shortly after meeting with Mayor Harry Kim, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported (http://bit.ly/2euW1wN ).
Hawaii County Council members sent the residents' concerns to the state, asking officials to pressure the Federal Aviation Administration to stop flights over residential areas.
The FAA is in talks with the state Department of Transportation about hosting a community meeting to address the concerns, spokesman Ian Gregor said.
Tour helicopters generally are supposed to stay higher than 1,500 feet (460 meters) above homes, except during takeoffs and landings, according to the state Department of Transportation.
Helicopter operators, however, said avoiding residential areas by flying over the ocean could be dangerous because pilots need to be within "visual contact" of land at all times. The operators are forming a "fly neighborly" nonprofit called the Hawaii Island Helicopter Association that will work with community members.
On Kauai Island, a system is in place that allows helicopters to avoid noise-sensitive areas once they're identified, said Paul Morris, director of operations at Sunshine Helicopters. Tour operators hope a similar system will be created on the Big Island, Morris said.