Busted!

The Garden Island newspaper had a front page story yesterday about the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) warning Inter-Island Helicopter to stop illegal landings. In another example of helicopter companies flaunting the laws, they are advertising the tour on their website, and DLNR staff found a clearing and “temporary” structures to provide shade in the Moloa’a Forest Reserve, both presumably illegal. The DLNR adds that permits are needed for landings in state managed lands, though it’s likely they wouldn’t be granted for quasi-wilderness areas such as the remote forest reserves.

Inter-Island Helicopters are the bad boys of the Kauai helicopter industry. They don’t have the sleek modern helicopter fleet that most other operators have, but they were the first to fly with the doors off, which many people found thrilling. They fly out of Port Allen airport, where they have a bunch of makeshift offices and structures with questionable permits (scroll down on the linked page). However, they are not just a tourist ride, their utilitarian choppers and skilled pilots are contracted by the county for mountain rescue and fire fighting. The owner’s son perished in an accident last Christmas while refilling a fire-fighting bucket at a reservoir near Lihue.

But the competition in the industry is driving operators to seek new thrills to sell, and remote waterfalls and forests are easy targets. One of the Robinson Family members recently applied to the planning commission for a landing permit, saying that their Niihau helicopters would stop at a botanical reserve that they own in the hills above Hanapepe. At the hearing, it turned out that another company with far more flights wanted to share the landing permit and that the location happens to be in the Jurassic Park movie.

Helicopters used to fly tourists to the Kalalau valley for the day, and I’m not sure when that stopped or why. But between the noise impact and the danger of spreading invasive species, it’s easy to see why landings are undesireable. What’s clear is that the operators are looking for new products, and allowing landings for one will make them all feel entitled, resulting in more flights and more nuisance for residents, hikers, and wildlife.

Printed from: http://great-hikes.com/blog/busted/.
© 2017.

4 Comments   »

  1. dan says:

    i’m glad i found your blog here. i commented on another article i found via google, and then stumbled on to this topic as well. are there still issues with helicopters, and in particular, the kalalau? we were out there two weeks ago, and an inter-island helicopter landed on the beach twice, no more than 75 yards from where we were camping.

    those bastards should lose their permit or something. seems totally ridiculous.

  2. Andy K says:

    The only helicopter issues I’m aware of in Kalalau is early morning (8am) flyovers that are loud enough to wake up campers–quite annoying. I hadn’t heard of any landings before you reported it here.

    I do know that Inter-Island does rescue work for the county, and perhaps also maintenance flights for the state park service. So perhaps they were assisting someone, training for rescues, or doing some sort of cleanup.

    State park rangers have also been known to helicopter in to catch unpermitted campers and Kalalau valley “residents.”

  3. dan says:

    Definitely weren’t assisting anyone. The guys landed, let off a passenger who appeared to go use the restroom. They then flew around in the valley for perhaps 20 minutes, and then landed a second time, to pick the passenger up.

    It appeared they were doing a flight-seeing tour, because we saw them flying extremely low in the valley earlier in the day. Possibly they were seeing if there was any damage from the flood?

    At any rate, the low flying helicopters were ridiculous. There were two other instances where they were within 75-100 feet of the trail or beach. Certainly there must be a ceiling they should fly at?

  4. joe/conshohocken,pa says:

    Do these guys ever get cited? I
    realize it’s a small permanent
    population and everyone knows
    everyone else and they are most
    likely “buds”. Alot of money involved too.
    I was checking out Barking Sands
    on Earth and that is some serious real estate, can even see the missle silos. Awesome beaches! What’s up with the airstrip, what flies outta there?

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