Hawaii lawmaker warns tour helicopters 'are not safe' after deadly crash

A Hawaii Democrat had strong words for the FAA

A Hawaii lawmaker warned that tour helicopters and small aircraft operations "are not safe" following the Thursday helicopter crash that killed seven people in his state.

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"We know this not only because of repeated fatal accidents and other incidents over the years, but because the National Transportation Safety Board, responsible for analyzing all such accidents, has placed safety improvements for such operations on its highest priority list," Rep. Ed Case said in a statement. "We further know that the Federal Aviation Administration, responsible for regulating our nation's airspace, has not taken the NTSB's concerns seriously."

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"Finally, we know that the tour helicopter and small aircraft industry itself is completely incapable of self-regulation," the Democrat Case said.

The FAA has tour regulations specific to Hawaii operations, a spokesman told FOX Business on Sunday.

"The agency conducts random and regular surveillance on all Hawaii air tour operators, and ensures companies address any issues we may find," the FAA said. "While we are always looking for possible trends, we have not identified issues of concern that are applicable to the industry statewide."

In this photo released by the U.S. Coast Guard, a coast guard vessel searches along the Na Pali Coast on the Hawaiian island of Kauai on Friday, Dec. 27, 2019, the day after a tour helicopter disappeared with seven people aboard. (Lt. j.g. Daniel Win

Case wants to see changes "including required FAA adoption of NTSB recommendations such as the 'sterile cockpit rule' required of commercial airlines (pilots must focus only on aircraft operation and safety; no tour duties)," he said. A bill he introduced in September includes such a provision.

Tour helicopter operations in Hawaii have come under increased scrutiny after the deadly crash this week, one of several recent accidents in the state.

There were no survivors of a Thursday tour helicopter crash that killed three minors and four adults, officials confirmed Saturday.

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The helicopter that was set to tour the rugged Na Pali Coast, the picturesque and remote northern shoreline of Kauai that was featured in the film “Jurassic Park,” crashed on a mountaintop Thursday.

Coast Guard Cutter William Hart moves toward the Na Pali Coast on the Hawaiian island of Kauai (Lt. j.g. Daniel Winter/U.S. Coast Guard via AP)

The remains of six people were recovered Friday and the seventh is still missing. Kauai police confirmed there were no survivors based in part on the nature of the crash and impact damage, officials said in a statement. Recovery efforts were suspended Saturday afternoon.

The scrutiny comes amid crashes involving other recent tour helicopters in the U.S. A tour helicopter crashed and killed three all three people on board in a Honolulu suburb in April. A tour helicopter crash in New York City killed all five passengers in March 2018 when the aircraft fell into the East River.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.