HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

H.C.R. NO.

177

TWENTY-NINTH LEGISLATURE, 2018

H.D. 1

STATE OF HAWAII

S.D. 1

 

 

 

 

HOUSE CONCURRENT

RESOLUTION

 

 

URGING VARIOUS GOVERNMENT ENTITIES TO DEVELOP, UPDATE, AND INTRODUCE POLICIES RELATED TO HELICOPTER AIR TOURS AT THE STATE AND NATIONAL LEVEL.

 

 


WHEREAS, the most popular helicopter tour destination on the island of Hawaii is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which recently celebrated its one hundredth anniversary; and

 

WHEREAS, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is managed by the Director of the National Park Service, which is a bureau of the United States Department of the Interior, and has more non-essential tour helicopter overflights than any other individual park in the nation; and

 

WHEREAS, in 2015, 14,630 flights within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park were reported by the helicopter industry; and

 

WHEREAS, as one of only three national parks that collects air tour fees, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park collected $356,850 in air tour fees in 2014; and

 

WHEREAS, as of September 2016, up to fourteen helicopter tour companies operated within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park under interim operating authority; and

 

WHEREAS, helicopter noise as a result of commercial air tour flights over residential areas in the east Hawaii region of the island of Hawaii has reached an unprecedented level in recent years; and

 

WHEREAS, residents in Hāmākua, Hilo, Mountain View, Puna, Volcano, and Kaū have continued to raise issues of overflights, noise complaints, and safety with the state Department of Transportation, Honolulu Flight Standards District Office of the Federal Aviation Administration, and air tour helicopter operators; and

 

WHEREAS, the National Parks Overflight Act of 1987 requires a minimum altitude of five thousand feet above ground level over any national park; and

 

WHEREAS, due to the absence of a congressionally mandated Air Tour Management Plan, some tour operators operating within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are allowed to descend to five hundred feet above ground level and as low as two hundred feet above ground level over razorback ridges; and

 

WHEREAS, these operations pose not just a noise issue but a flight-safety issue, as well; and

 

WHEREAS, the Federal Aviation Administration has jurisdiction over all airspace in the country and has the power to regulate all aspects of civil aviation; and

 

WHEREAS, in 2000, the National Environmental Policy Act, in conjunction with the National Parks Air Tour Management Act of 2000, required an Air Tour Management Plan to be implemented at various national parks throughout the country; and

 

WHEREAS, the objective of an Air Tour Management Plan is "to develop acceptable and effective measures to mitigate or prevent the significant adverse impacts, if any, of commercial air tour operations upon the natural and cultural resources, visitor experiences and tribal lands"; and

 

WHEREAS, in 2004, the Federal Aviation Administration and National Park Service requested public comment on an Air Tour Management Plan Environmental Assessment relating to managing commercial air tour overflights at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park; and

 

WHEREAS, in 2005, the project was upgraded to an Environmental Impact Statement, and the Federal Aviation Administration published a notice of opportunity for commercial air tour operators granted interim operating authority to review and self-correct annual authorizations; and

 

WHEREAS, in 2007, a planning team composed of staff from the Federal Aviation Administration, National Park Service, and Volpe National Transportation Systems Center began work on preliminary alternatives for air tour operations over Hawaii Volcanoes National Park; and

 

WHEREAS, in 2008, Federal Aviation Administration and National Park Service staff met with Hawaii air tour operators, and acoustic monitoring of three sites at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was conducted; and

 

WHEREAS, in 2011, a preliminary draft Air Tour Management Plan for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was published, identifying five alternatives for public comment, and three open-house public meetings on the draft plan were held in April 2011, in Volcano, Pahoa, and Naalehu; and

 

WHEREAS, seven years later, in 2018, there is still no final Air Tour Management Plan for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park; and

 

WHEREAS, in addition, after more than sixteen years, no Air Tour Management Plan for any national park in the nation has been completed; and

 

WHEREAS, consequently, the only rules that govern helicopter and fixed-wing air tours over the airspace of the Hawaiian Islands is the Hawaii Air Tour Common Procedures Manual, a Federal Aviation Administration document that was issued in 2008; and

 

WHEREAS, the Hawaii Air Tour Common Procedures Manual covers rules over all islands and air tour operators that have been granted interim operating authority; and

 

WHEREAS, this manual is nearly ten years old, and its rules and prescribed altitudes for overflights over land are unclear; and

 

WHEREAS, in 2010, the United States Census Bureau reported that the island of Hawaii, particularly east Hawaii, was the fastest-growing region in the State; and

 

WHEREAS, the population of Puna has reached forty-five thousand residents, and the majority of air tour overflights transit over these residential areas on their way to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on a daily basis; and

 

WHEREAS, furthermore, when air tours depart Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, they typically fly a route toward the waterfall attractions in North Hilo, traveling over Volcano, Mountain View, Waiākea-Uka, Kaumana, North Hilo, Hāmākua, and Honokaa; and

 

WHEREAS, it is essential to achieve a balance between residents and the tour industry that respects the peace and serenity that all residents in east Hawaii should be able to enjoy; and

 

WHEREAS, the visitors who travel from around the world to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park should also be able to enjoy that same peace and tranquility as well as the precious ecosystems and wildlife that exist in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park; and

 

WHEREAS, similar concerns relating to noise and flight-safety from air tours exist in the densely populated Punchbowl region of Oahu, in and around Punchbowl Crater and the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific; now, therefore,

 

BE IT RESOLVED by the House of Representatives of the Twenty-ninth Legislature of the State of Hawaii, Regular Session of 2018, the Senate concurring, that the respective government entities at the state and national level are urged to develop, update, and introduce policies related to helicopter air tours; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Federal Aviation Administration is urged to complete the Air Tour Management Plan for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Haleakala, and other designated national parks throughout the nation; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the United States Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, and Honolulu Flight Standards District Office of the Federal Aviation Administration are urged to update the nearly decade-old Hawaii Air Tour Common Procedures Manual; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Governor, Director of Transportation, General Aviation Officer of the Department of Transportation, and Honolulu Flight Standards District Office of the Federal Aviation Administration are urged to work with community stakeholders and the local helicopter tour industry to update air tour flight paths to include a variety of recommended routes, including off-shore routes; altitudes; reporting procedures; and noise mitigation operations that can alleviate helicopter noise pollution, while also providing the highest level of safety for helicopter tour operators; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Hawaii Congressional delegation is urged to introduce legislation addressing helicopter tour operations and noise pollution surrounding America's highly populated cities, towns, and communities; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Hawaii air tour operators are urged to meet with community stakeholders once a quarter to work together to address concerns related to noise complaints and safety issues; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Hawaii air tour operators are urged to operate helicopter air tours no earlier than sunrise and no later than sunset on normal business days and no earlier than one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset on weekends and holidays, as published by the United States Naval Observatory on its website for Honolulu; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Department of Transportation is requested to convene a working group to develop state-level policies and procedures for managing air tours at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Haleakala, Punchbowl, and other designated locations throughout the State and to coordinate communications between relevant state departments and agencies and the Federal Aviation Administration for the purposes of developing, updating, and introducing policies related to helicopter air tours; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the working group shall be comprised of the Director of Transportation or the Director's designee, Director of Health or the Director's designee, one member from the Senate Committee on Government Operations or its successor committee to be appointed by the President of the Senate, one member from the House Committee on Transportation or its successor committee to be appointed by the Speaker of the House, and other interested stakeholders as determined by the Director of Transportation; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the working group is requested to submit a report of its findings and any proposed legislation to the Legislature no later than twenty days prior to the convening of the Regular Session of 2019; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that certified copies of this Concurrent Resolution be transmitted to the United States Secretary of Transportation, each member of Hawaii's Congressional delegation, Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, Deputy Director of the National Park Service, Manager of the Honolulu Flight Standards District Office of the Federal Aviation Administration, Governor, President of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Director of Transportation, Director of Health, General Aviation Officer of the Department of Transportation, and Hawaii Helicopter Association.

Report Title:

Helicopter Air Tours; Air Tour Management Plan; Policies; Hawaii Volcanoes National Park