S.B. NO.



















SECTION 1. The legislature finds that tour helicopters and small aircraft operations constitute a significant risk to passengers and residents on the ground. Over the past five years, tour helicopters and small aircraft operations in Hawaii accounted for nearly seventeen per cent of the nation-wide accidents that prompted investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. In one ten-month period spanning 2019 to 2020, twenty-three lives were lost in four separate tour helicopter or small aircraft accidents on Oahu and Kauai. Therefore, it is important that tour operators carry insurance in sufficient amounts to cover potential losses in the event of an accident.

The legislature also finds that residents in the State must endure the excessive noise that helicopter tours generate. Federal legislation, such as the National Parks Air Tour Management Act of 2000, established rules that tour operators must follow when flying over national parks like Volcanoes National Park, Pearl Harbor National Memorial, and Haleakala National Park. Therefore, it is in the interest of the State to monitor and ensure that federal regulations are being followed and that the State has the option not to renew a tour aircraft operation permit for any company that repeatedly deviates from flight plans over sensitive areas.

The legislature further finds that the Federal Aviation Administration, Hawaii department of transportation, some Hawaii tour helicopter companies, and other interested stakeholders have formed an unofficial Hawaii air noise and safety task force with the stated intent of addressing increasing safety and community disruption concerns, but has been criticized for not fully engaging and responding to public concerns in determining regulatory or voluntary changes in operations. An increasing number of elected officials and community organizations have expressed increasing concern with safety risks and community disruption arising from tour helicopter and small aircraft operations.

The purpose of this Act is to:

(1) Formally establish the helicopter noise and safety task force in the department of transportation; and

(2) Require tour aircraft operators to carry and maintain sufficient insurance amounts, as well as file appropriate reports and disclosures so that the State can monitor compliance with federal regulations.

SECTION 2. Chapter 261, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by adding a new section to be appropriately designated and to read as follows:

"261-   Helicopter noise and safety task force. (a) There is established a helicopter noise and safety task force in the department of transportation.

(b) The task force shall:

(1) Identify key noise and safety issues facing Hawaii relating to helicopters;

(2) Address increasing safety and community disruption concerns;

(3) Explore and recommend changes needed to law and business practices to protect the public from the inherent dangers presented by helicopters; and

(4) Engage with and respond to public concerns in determining regulatory or voluntary changes in helicopter operations.

(c) The members of the task force shall include:

(1) The chairs of the Senate and House of Representatives standing committees with jurisdiction over transportation, who shall serve as the co-chairs of the task force; and

(2) The director of transportation or their designee.

(d) The co-chairs of the task force shall invite the following persons to join the task force:

(1) A representative from the Federal Aviation Administration; and

(2) At least one representative from the helicopter industry.

(e) The co-chairs of the task force may invite other interested parties and members of the public who live in areas impacted by helicopter noise to join the task force.

(f) The members of the task force shall serve without compensation but shall be reimbursed for expenses, including travel expenses, necessary for the performance of their duties.

(g) The task force shall submit a report of its findings and recommendations, including any proposed legislation, to the legislature no later than twenty days prior to the convening of each regular session."

SECTION 3. Section 261-12, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by amending subsection (b) to read as follows:

"(b) Tour aircraft operations. Any other law to the contrary notwithstanding, no tour aircraft operation shall be permitted in any airport under the State's control without having a permit. The director shall adopt rules to regulate tour aircraft operations by permit, which shall include but not be limited to:

(1) Identification of the types of aircraft to be utilized;

(2) The number of operations daily for each type of aircraft used and the days and hours of operation;

(3) Verification that the applicant is in compliance with all state statutes, including but not limited to this section;

(4) Verification that the applicant has the Federal Aviation Administration certificate 121 or 135;

(5) A written assessment by the department of the impact to the surrounding area and to the subject state airport;

(6) Revocation of a permit based on the failure to comply with the information provided by the applicant and the terms and conditions set forth by the department in the permit; and any false statement or misrepresentation made by the applicant;

(7) Establishment of penalties for revocation and suspension of a permit for failure to comply with permit conditions;

(8) Verification that the applicant has commercial general liability insurance coverage of not less than $10,000,000 arising from any one accident or other cause that covers but is not limited to bodily injury and death and contractual liability;

(9) Requirement that each applicant applying to renew a permit shall provide to the department a written report, which shall be made available to the public, of each tour operation that occurred during the duration of the expiring permit, including:

(A) The date and time that the aircraft took off and landed;

(B) The number of individuals aboard the aircraft during the operation;

(C) The flight path from takeoff through landing; and

(D) A disclosure if the aircraft deviated from its intended flight plan;

[(8)] (10) Annual renewal of permits; and

[(9)] (11) Any change of operations under the existing permit to be approved by the director.

No permit shall be authorized unless accompanied by a Hawaii sectional aeronautical chart marked to indicate routes and altitudes to be used in conducting aerial tours and noise abatement procedures to be employed in the vicinity of identified noise sensitive areas.

For the purposes of this subsection, "tour aircraft operations" means any business operation that offers aircraft for hire by passengers for the purpose of aerial observation of landmarks and other manmade or natural sites within an island of the State and for the purpose of transporting passengers for tourist-related activities."

SECTION 4. Statutory material to be repealed is bracketed and stricken. New statutory material is underscored.

SECTION 5. This Act shall take effect upon its approval.








Report Title:

Helicopters; Tour Aircraft Operations; Insurance; Records



Establishes the helicopter noise and safety task force. Requires the Director of Transportation to adopt rules to require tour aircraft operators to have commercial general liability insurance coverage of at least $10,000,000 and to report details of each flight taken by the tour aircraft operation in order to renew a tour aircraft operation permit.




The summary description of legislation appearing on this page is for informational purposes only and is not legislation or evidence of legislative intent.