Feds want better pilot training
Proposed new federal rules governing air tours aim to cut down on human error
Making sure pilots have better training and are able to make better decisions before and after takeoff is at the heart of new federal rules being proposed for air tours, the nation's top transportation safety official said yesterday during a visit to Hawaii.
The new rules are aimed at reducing tragedies from excursions such as helicopter tours in Hawaii and elsewhere that are popular with tourists.
Mark Rosenker, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said many of the recommendations came from a summit held in Hawaii last month that included government officials, tour operators and other authorities.
"It was a good summit ... to try to get people to understand the seriousness of what has been happening here," Rosenker told the Star-Bulletin after meeting with Gov. Linda Lingle to discuss some of the rules being proposed to the Federal Aviation Administration.
"We've had, unfortunately, a spate of accidents, some of which were fatal," he added.
In March, two tour helicopters crashed on Kauai within days of each other, killing five people in all. Additionally, 39 people have been killed in 10 helicopter accidents in Hawaii since 1994.
No final report has been issued in either of the Kauai crashes from this year.
Rosenker said the new rules, which would govern air tours everywhere, are aimed at cutting down on human error.
"We wanted to have courses that were created to deal in better decision making," he said. "We found some of the accidents were actually caused by bad decisions of the pilot."
New regulations also would place stricter limits on the amount of time pilots can fly at any given time.
"By virtue of a loophole within the federal aviation regulations ... they actually have the ability to fly longer than what would normally be a good duty day," he said, and a standard day would include about eight hours of flight time. "In some of the operations we've seen, it is not as disciplined an operation as we would like to see."
The proposals are to be presented to the FAA for consideration this year.
Rosenker was in Hawaii to brief Lingle on the proposed rules as well as to discuss transportation safety proposals being pushed by the NTSB at the state level.
Those proposals include a one-time education course for recreational boaters and a ban on the use of mobile devices -- such as cell phones and two-way pagers -- for young drivers who have only a provisional license under the state's graduated driver's license program.
Lingle said her department heads would be studying the proposals and determining what course of action to pursue.