HAI Statement on May 10 NTSB Hearing

Alexandria, Va. (May 11, 2022) – Helicopter Association International (HAI) appreciates and supports the work of the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for its May 10 hearing to announce the probable cause and draft findings and recommendations related to a fatal air-tour helicopter accident that occurred on Dec. 26, 2019, near Kekaha, Hawaii, on the island of Kauai. HAI extends its deepest condolences to the families and coworkers of those who died in the accident.

“Helicopter tours give the public the ability to experience the joy and excitement of vertical flight while taking in the beauty of the tour area,” says James Viola, president and CEO of HAI. Helicopter tour operators follow stringent safety regulations and policies, providing their passengers with views and experiences unobtainable through any other mode of transportation. The primary cause of this accident, as determined by the NTSB, was the pilot’s decision to continue flying under visual flight rules into deteriorating weather with limited visibility.

During the hearing, the NTSB also discussed other factors the agency believed contributed to the accident, including the operator’s lack of a safety management system (SMS), inadequate training for pilots to recognize weather hazards while in flight, and the need for additional weather-reporting equipment within the islands of Hawaii.

“HAI has worked with safety advocates worldwide to address the issue of pilots continuing flights into deteriorating weather conditions,” adds Viola. “We worked with the US Helicopter Safety Team to produce the award-winning “56 Seconds to Live” education program, and we have a long history with our own Land & LIVE program that encourages pilots to make precautionary landings when flight conditions deteriorate. Poor aeronautical decision-making is relevant in too many aviation accidents.”

HAI supports recommendations that all paid-passenger flights be conducted under 14 CFR Part 135 regulations. In addition, HAI has partnered with three providers to offer scalable SMS solutions to member businesses and supports requiring SMS programs for all operations carrying passengers for hire. HAI strongly recommends that all aviation operations, not just those carrying paying passengers, implement an SMS program. HAI also promotes the use of flight-data monitoring and cockpit recording equipment to help reduce future accidents through training and flight management.

“We are grateful that the NTSB noted the safety contributions of the Vertical Aviation Safety Team (VAST), the US Helicopter Safety Team (USHST), and the Tour Operators Program of Safety (TOPS) for the determination and the hard work of their volunteers to improve operational safety for all mission segments,” adds Viola. “We continue to actively participate in several projects with these organizations to improve vertical flight safety.”

“We extend our appreciation to the NTSB staff and board members for their time, expertise, and efforts to improve flight safety for paying passengers,” says Viola.

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 HAI is the professional trade association for the international helicopter industry and represents more than 1,100 companies and over 16,000 industry professionals in more than 65 countries. Each year, HAI members safely operate more than 3,700 helicopters and remotely piloted aircraft approximately 2.9 million hours. HAI is dedicated to the promotion of the helicopter as a safe, effective method of commerce and to the advancement of the international helicopter community.