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Air businesses object to Obama no-fly zone


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POSTED: Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Air tour operators and flight training schools say a no-fly zone established over much of Windward Oahu during President Barack Obama's upcoming visit will hurt their businesses.

Starting tomorrow through Jan. 4, several general aviation activities, such as air tours, hang gliding and flight training, are prohibited within a 10-mile radius of where Obama is staying.

The no-fly zone stretches from Kaaawa almost to Makapuu Point on the windward side and over much of the Honolulu side of the Koolau mountains.

“;This is the peak of the tourist season,”; said Rob Moore, president of the General Aviation Council of Hawaii. “;Here is a president trying to promote more jobs, and by ... visiting us, is all of a sudden impeding business.”;

Moore, whose group represents more than 20 businesses, said the expanded security zone came without much notice.

He said when President Bill Clinton visited the Marine Corps Base in Kaneohe, the security radius was five miles.

The no-fly zone was five miles when then President-elect Obama vacationed at an estate in Kailua last year.

The tour aircraft will still fly even if their range is limited, industry officials said.

“;It's not going to be as good a tour, but the tourist will at least get a tour and see a lot of Oahu,”; said P.J. O'Reilley, manager of Mauna Loa Helicopters on Oahu.

U.S. Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Albert Joaquin said the 10-mile, no-fly standard for presidents has been in place since mid-decade and evolved out of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Joaquin said in addition, those flying within a 30-mile radius are required to file flight plans, except military, police, fire and emergency aircraft.

O'Reilley said he understands the president's need for a rest, but wonders why Obama chose Oahu, instead of remote islands such as Lanai or Molokai where there would be less disruption.

O'Reilley said the flight security standards prohibit helicopter training flights during one of the busiest times of the year.

“;In December, we're expecting people from the mainland or Japan who are just on vacation and want to log time if they can,”; he said.

O'Reilley said he could understand Obama spending a few days on Oahu but the length of stay will affect his business and those of his five instructors.

Pat Magie, owner of Island Seaplane Service Inc., said his tour business has been hurting for about a year because of the recession and that the flight security rules during Obama's visit will effectively shut down his seaplane business.

“;The deal they've worked up doesn't work for us,”; he said.