Hawaii News

Hawai‘i’s US lawmakers address air tour industry with two new bills

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U.S. senators Brian Schatz and Mazie K. Hirono and U.S. representatives Ed Case and Jill Tokuda (all Democrats representing Hawai‘i) have introduced two bills they say will improve air tour safety and reduce noise for Hawai‘i residents.

The Air Tour and Skydiving Safety Improvement Act, first introduced by senators Schatz and Hirono in 2020, would create new safety standards that protect passengers on air tours and improve the safety of skydiving flights in Hawai‘i and across the country. The Hawai‘i Air Tour Management Act would require the Federal Aviation Administration to work with the State of Hawai‘i to create a new management plan that reduces the noise of these tours.

“The constant noise and tragic number of accidents we’ve seen in Hawai‘i have made it clear that we need to do more to both make air tours less disruptive for residents and safer for passengers and pilots,” Sen. Schatz said.


“Activities popular with tourists, like helicopter tours and skydiving, impact the daily lives of locals and we need to make sure that these operations are conducted safely and that our policies are fostering an environment of respect and a sustainable use of Hawaiʻi’s airspace and natural resources,” said Rep. Tokuda.

In Hawai‘i, at least 85 people have died in air tour crashes since the National Transportation Safety Board began keeping records – the highest number of any state.

U.S. Rep. Jill Tokuda

Because of a gap in federal law, certain commercial air tour operators are subject to less stringent safety standards – known as “Part 91” under U.S. Federal Aviation Regulations – that were intended for small, private recreational flights. Most commercial air tours and charter flight operators are subject to more rigorous safety and training standards, known as “Part 135.”


The Air Tour and Skydiving Safety Improvement Act closes the loophole for Part 91 commercial air tour operators and improves Part 135 regulations to be more in line with those of larger flight operations.

The bill also requires small aircraft tour operators to use warning systems for remote terrain flights, begins a process to improve data collection to track these flights, and aims to improve pilot training and aircraft maintenance for parachute operators.

It is supported by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Helicopter Association International, National Air Transportation Association and National Business Aviation Association.


The Hawai‘i Air Tour Management Act would require the Federal Aviation Administration Administrator to work with the Governor of Hawai‘i to establish an air tour management plan for all parts of the state not already covered by a National Park air tour management plan.

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