The newly formed Hawaii Helicopter Association (HHA) will make its debut at this year's Heli-Expo. Officially formed in June 2017, HHA is an offshoot of an operators’ group working to update the Hawaii air tour common procedures manual, according to Nicole Vandelaar-Battjes, HHA chairman and president.
Founding HHA members include Novictor Helicopters, Paradise Helicopters, Safari Helicopters, Sunshine Helicopter, Air Maui, Blue Hawaiian Helicopters, Hawaii Helicopters, Jack Harter Helicopters, Hawaii Pacific Aviation, and Island Helicopters. Vandelaar-Battjes owns Novictor, a Robinson R44 operator based on Oahu.
HHA meets at least monthly and is finishing the revision of the procedures manual that covers a variety of best practices, including training and weather, she said. The manual had not been revised since 2008. Other HHA agenda items include fostering better inter-island operator communications and building a noise complaint database. The association has contracted with PlaneNoise for this purpose. Interested parties can file complaints via a toll-free hotline or via a form on the association's website: www.hawaiihelicopterassociation.org.
Vandelaar-Battjes said HHA should have sufficient noise complaint data in about six months to differentiate and evaluate trends and determine what action, if any, to take to modify operations. “We're trying to get real data” as opposed to anecdotal complaints, she said, adding that HHA is committed to working with local communities and addressing their concerns.
However, she noted that virtually all of the air-tour operations are conducted during daylight and the volume of air-tour operations differs radically from island to island, with higher concentrations of tour flying on the “big island” of Hawaii, Maui, and Kauai. On her home island of Oahu, helicopter overflights are more likely to be military or parapublic. Hawaii's civil fleet tends to be less homogenous than that in places like Las Vegas, due to greater demand for multi-mission capabilities including tour, charter, and utility, Vandelaar-Battjes added. “We have a variety of aircraft being operated in Hawaii and different operators are using helicopters for different purposes,” she said. “We wanted to get the operators together to do a number of things to promote responsible helicopter flying in Hawaii and advance new initiatives.” That could include revisiting the installation of a statewide aviation weather cam system, she said.
According to HHA, air-tour operators generate an estimated $149-plus million to Hawaii’s economy annually and approximately 95 percent of the income generated from the air-tour industry is reinvested in the economy in the form of wages, maintenance expenses, commissions, taxes, and ancillary support industries. Hawaii helicopter operators have invested more than $100 million in sound-reducing technologies over the past three decades and air-tour operators incorporate their own “Fly Neighborly” programs with additional voluntary measures to reduce noise. Since 2008 Hawaii has had the most regulated air-tour environment in the country with the addition of Appendix A to Part 136 that mandates a 1,500-foot minimum altitude requirement.