AOPA fights anti-helicopter legislation in Hawaii

AOPA fights anti-helicopter legislation in Hawaii

28-Feb-2023 Source: AOPA

AOPA is working with Helicopter Association International (HAI) and other integral stakeholders to advocate against the passage of anti-helicopter legislation in the House and Senate in Hawaii—citing the negative impacts these measures will have on the state’s economy.

The legislation would establish a path for individuals to sue helicopter owners and operators for causing what is deemed a “public nuisance,” as helicopters operating “in excess of a certain decibel level” are “a source of noise pollution in violation of the State’s noise pollution law,” according to the language in the bills.

The two measures, H.B.1201 and S.B.969, are concerning to AOPA, HAI, and other stakeholders because if the legislation passes it could set a precedent for other communities to develop regulations that conflict with the FAA, which has preemptive authority to regulate airspace.Additionally concerning, the bills contain a private right of action provision allowing any person to sue an aircraft owner or pilot if the individual finds the noise a nuisance. The subjective language included in the measures could be used in the future to target other aircraft, placing operators at risk for a civil lawsuit or fine.

AOPA’s efforts to oppose H.B.1201 and S.B.969 have already begun, in coordination with HAI and in conversations with Hawaii state legislators to inform them of the negative impacts if this legislation passes. In a letter to Sen. Chris Lee (D-District 25), chair of the Hawaii Senate Committee on Transportation and Culture and the Arts, AOPA Western Regional Manager Jared Yoshiki shared AOPA’s concerns:

“This legislation will have a detrimental impact on the aviation industry in the state and the state’s economy and will create a chilling effect on private investment in aviation industries and infrastructure looking to do business in Hawaii,” wrote Yoshiki. “Simply put the passage of this legislation would incentivize high-technology aviation businesses to invest in other states eager to support these growing aviation sectors.”

Regulation of helicopter operations has been an emerging complaint in Hawaii as a steep rise in helicopter tourism has drawn noise pollution concerns from locals. In 2020 AOPA submitted testimony opposing a bill proposing prohibition of tour aircraft operations on Sundays. The bill was rejected by two legislative committees. In 2022 then-Gov. David Ige signed S.B.3272, which required that air tour aircraft operations provide monthly reports on aerial activities and also established an Air, Noise, and Safety Task Force in an effort to track noise pollution and public safety concerns.

In the letter, Yoshiki addresses previous legislation, noting, “Tour operators have yet to see draft regulations that would impact the very noise concerns SB 969 seeks to address. Rather than introduce new legislation, seeking to double down and remedy the same problem, it would be prudent to allow current law to take effect and then gauge its effects.”

The language in H.B.1201 and S.B.969 mirrors a similar piece of legislation struck down in New York in December by Gov. Kathy Hochul. The “stop the chop” bill would have mitigated helicopter operations at the West 30th Street Heliport in New York City for alleged noise pollution reasons.

AOPA was an outspoken opponent of the bill, sharing concerns with Hochul in a joint letter with the New York Aviation Management Association.

In her veto message Hochul explained, “Regulation of aircraft and airspace is primarily a federal responsibility, and federal law significantly constrains the state’s ability to legislate in this area. Certain elements of this legislation run counter to the federal scheme regulating New York’s airports and airspace.”

AOPA will continue to engage with measures in Hawaii to mitigate helicopter operations as the issue unfolds. H.B.1201 was passed by the Hawaii House Committee on Health and Homelessness on February 15, and S.B.969 was passed by the Hawaii Senate Committee on Transportation and Culture and the Arts on February 14.

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