Nearly 30 years ago, Hawaii Helicopter Operators Association (HHOA) launched the Fly Neighborly Program, which has supported helicopter operators across the state in establishing flight procedures and best practices. HHOA has worked with community organizations and state and federal agencies to find solutions to issues, including noise and safety. The following is a summary of major HHOA and Hawaii air-tour industry events:

  • 1985 – Helicopter Operators establish Helicopter Hotline. Helicopter Industry in Hawaii begins to work together to improve safety and address community concerns.
  • 1990 – Fly Neighborly program published by HHOA, the result of a 47-member Fly Neighborly Task Force. Fly Neighborly consists of voluntary guidelines to reduce noise and increase safety.
  • 1993 – Hawaii air-tour operators form industry standards in collaboration with the Helicopter Association International. The Helicopter Tour Operators Committee (HTOC) is created to enhance safety. Two years later, the Tour Operators Program of Safety (TOPS) is established.
  • 1994 – FAA adopts measures of Fly Neighborly program. Special Federal Aviation Regulation 71 (SFAR 71) establishes a minimum tour helicopter flight altitude of 1,500 feet over populated areas in Hawaii. It is based on guidelines formed by the Fly Neighborly Program.
  • 2000 – National Parks collects park fees from air tour operators under the National Parks Air Tour Management Act of 2000. Overflight fees and overflight limits are placed on all air-tour operators flying under 5,000 feet within ½ mile of a national park. These overflight limits, which were based on flights conducted during a specific time period in previous years, have never been increased, even though visitors to the Island of Hawaii and HAVO have increased by 37.2% and 20.9%, respectively, between 2000 and 2015.
  • 2008 – Hawaii becomes the most regulated air tour environment in the country with the addition of Appendix A to FAR Part 136. No other air-tour business outside of Hawaii has the FAA-mandated 1,500-foot minimum altitude requirement outlined in this appendix.
  • 2010 – FAA launches a voluntary Safety Management System (SMS) program for air tour operators. Operators initiate additional certifications that match or exceed regulatory requirements.
  • 2017 – Hawaii Helicopter Association (HHA) is established as an affiliate of Helicopter Association International (HAI). HHA launched PlaneNoise to address community noise concerns and establish a State-wide platform to capture noise concerns from the community.

Certifications: Hawaii air-tour operators have earned the highest certifications and ratings available, including the International Standards for Business Aviation Operations (IS-BAO) from the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC), Tour Operators Program of Safety (TOPS), the Helicopter Association International’s Accreted Program of Safety (HAI-APS), and private company accreditations. This level of voluntary certification is unprecedented.

Noise Abatement: In addition to the above certifications and milestones, Hawaii’s air tour operators regularly participate in County, State, Federal and community meetings; actively investigate noise issues on the ground; conduct acoustic sampling in noise sensitive areas. Operators have invested in quiet aircraft and technologies over the past several decades and are doing more to ensure responsible operations for both our residents and visitors. This investment includes Plane Noise, a detailed digital tracking system that pinpoints and maps each area of concern and ensures compliance with regulations. Learn more at https://www.planenoise.com/hha.

Industry Snapshot:

  • The Hawaii air-tour industry is a major visitor activity in the State.
  • An estimated 860 plus families are directly supported by air-tour operations in Hawaii.
  • Air-tour operators generate an estimated $149 plus million to Hawaii’s economy annually.
  • Approximately 95% 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.
  • Air-tour operators incorporate their own Fly Neighborly programs with additional voluntary measures to reduce noise.
  • Air-tour operators support numerous public and community programs throughout Hawaii.