Flight control


POSTED: Saturday, October 10, 2009

Question: I don't know if they were the Thunderbirds or not, but military jets kept flying over Moanalua Gardens, making a big racket and shaking houses, on Friday afternoon, Sept. 18. Isn't there a law against them flying over a residential area?

Answer: The Federal Aviation Administration approved three aerial demonstrations by the Air Force Thunderbirds for the weekend of Sept. 18-20.

The FAA has specific regulations governing flight patterns over residential areas and altitude restrictions, but the Thunderbirds had a waiver to go below the “;published minimums,”; according to a spokesman for Hickam Air Force Base.

Hickam officials, the Thunderbirds and local FAA officials worked together on the “;standard waiver,”; which outlined a predetermined flight area encompassing a 5-nautical-mile radius around the airport and Hickam, he said.

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor confirmed that the agency issues waivers for military aircraft to fly over populated areas and at certain altitudes during air shows.

In Hawaii the FAA's Flight Standards District Office is responsible for assessing the flight area.

“;The FAA air traffic facility will issue temporary flight restrictions to monitor the aircraft that are authorized in the restricted area at a specific time and altitude,”; Gregor said. “;We continuously monitor the aircraft during these events to ensure the safety of people on the ground and in the air.”;

At all times, there is coordination among the military and FAA's air traffic and flight standards offices, he said, emphasizing that safety is the main concern.

Gregor explained that each waiver has specific instructions to ensure that the planes are at a safe distance above people and property.

“;If during an air show we found that weather or altitudes were a potential safety factor, the military flights would be canceled or the flights would be conducted at safe altitudes,”; he said. “;These events are always performed within a 5-mile radius of the scheduled main event, and these aircraft are closely monitored by FAA air traffic.”;

As for “;published minimums,”; Gregor said that refers to weather or altitude regulations.

“;For example, federal regulations state that aircraft cannot fly faster than 250 knots when they're below 10,000 feet altitude,”; he said. “;The FAA would have to issue a waiver for aircraft in an air show to fly faster than 250 knots below 10,000 feet.”; The FAA also may issue waivers to allow aircraft to fly at lower than “;normal”; altitudes, but such waivers are given only when it's determined there are escape routes to nonpopulated areas in the event of a problem.

“;The waivers specify what these escape routes are, and we ensure that pilots are aware of these routes during preflight briefings,”; Gregor said.

That all said, Air Force officials apologized for “;any disturbances or frightening situations the aircraft noise may have caused.”;

They said the precision aerial maneuvers are done not only to demonstrate the capabilities of the Air Force, but also “;to reinforce public confidence ... by demonstrating to the public the professional competence of Air Force members.”;


To Hickam Air Force Base for misleading us into believing we could take TheBus No. 19 to the Thunderbirds air show on Saturday, Sept. 19. Dozens of us took that bus to Hickam but were turned away at the gate.

I had phoned Hickam and was told we would be allowed in on the bus. Others had printed letters from Hickam officials saying the same thing. But only people with military IDs were allowed in on the bus. Why, when all those with no military ID driving cars could go in the main gate? Shame that many of us never got to see the displays or the show.—Very Disappointed

Hickam Air Force Base officials extended their “;sincerest apologies”; for what happened, saying it was the result of a “;communication failure.”;

They acknowledged it was advertised and people were encouraged to use TheBus to go to the “;Wings over the Pacific”; Open House the weekend of Sept. 19 and 20, but that “;a communication failure”; prevented people on your specific bus from entering the base.

“;Once identified, base leadership immediately corrected the problem, and there were no further delays,”; a spokesman said.

He explained that since Sept. 11, 2001, security has been a “;paramount”; concern.

Security personnel were following regulations for a public transit vehicle when they asked everyone aboard TheBus to show identification.

The policy in question states, “;Personnel entering the base via TheBus must be in possession of a valid form of authorized identification. Any person not in possession of valid entry credentials will be denied access to the installation.”;


Write to “;Kokua Line”; at Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana, Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).