A bill by a Hawaii politician could significantly impact helicopter and small plane tours in the U.S., proposed following two fatal accidents in the state within recent months.
The Safe and Quiet Skies Act, proposed in late August by U.S. Congressman Ed Case, would tighten regulations on commercial air tour operators by directing the Federal Aviation Administration to adopt safety recommendations advanced by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The bill, which will be presented to Congress this month, comes following two such accidents in Hawaii this year: in April, a tour helicopter crashed in a residential neighbourhood, killing three people, followed by the deaths of 11 people in June when a skydiving plane crashed shortly after takeoff.
Specifically the Act would:
- Require that tour flights fly above the 1,500-foot altitude over actual ground at all times with very limited exceptions for emergencies and takeoff/landing;
- Require tour flights over occupied areas (including residential, commercial and recreational areas) to be no louder than 55 dbA, the same level of noise commonly allowed for residential areas;
- Allow states and localities to impose additional requirements – stricter than the minimum national requirements called for in the act – on tour flights;
- Prohibit tour flights over military installations, national cemeteries, national wilderness areas, national parks, and national wildlife refuges;
- Apply the “sterile cockpit rule” to tour flights, which requires that pilots only focus on safely operating the aircraft and would define tour-giving and narrating as outside of the duties required for safe operations.
Such operators are a popular fixture in many U.S. destinations, particularly Hawaii, Nevada and Arizona.
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