Letter to the Editor

My first letter to the editor, entitled “Helicopter industry is not God’s gift to Kaua’i,” was published in today’s Garden Island newspaper, here is the link. The letters published in the Garden Island are very popular on the island, my wife says they are the best part of the paper. There are ongoing discussions about national and local issues, as well as some good government watchdogs and suggestions for improving life on Kaua’i (many centered around stopping development).

Ever since I’ve been hiking on Kaua’i, I’ve wanted to confront the helicopter industry about it’s unsafe practices and warn the public, especially tourists, about the danger. Not being a confrontational person, nor really having the time to launch a campaign, I never did more than report on accidents here. The local Sierra Club has an old web page about responsible helicopter tourism, but when I contacted them, they said they were no longer active on the topic.

The debate began last week when one of the operators defended the helicopter industry in a letter to the editor, and I felt their spin could not go unopposed. Their false excuses show they are more committed to booking customers than to safety or customer experience. It all started when someone else wrote about their unsafe flying in Waimea Canyon during the recent rainy weather with low clouds.

Writing my letter took a bit of research because although a lot of information is on the internet, it’s hard to interpret the legal documents. I ended up talking to an FAA investigator on Oahu who gave me all the details about the altitude limits in practice and in plain language. When I asked him if people should be reporting low-flying helicoters to his office, he said it would be a good thing to have more incident reports. He said it is best if you can photograph or film the incident and record the tail number of the aircraft. You should also note the time, date, and accurate location (look on topozone.com or email me and I can help). The phone number for the FAA flight standards office on Oahu is 808-837-8300 (press 0 to speak to the operator and ask to file a report).

PS: Someone has already told me that it’s not “undefendable” but “indefensible,” I can’t believe I didn’t catch that.

Update 4/12/2006: I forgot to include the link to the old Jack Harter website that I mention in the letter to the editor. When I saw it, I saved a copy of the files, and indeed it changed soon thereafter to its present form (oddly, it looks like he didn’t get jackharter.com).

Printed from: http://great-hikes.com/blog/letter-to-the-editor/.
© 2020.


  1. Mark says:

    Good, fact-filled letter to the editor. I wonder how easy it will be for tourists to find your editorial when they Google for a helicopter tour of the island.

  2. Suzanne says:

    I just finished reading William J. Smith’s response to your letter to the editor, in today’s Garden Island. Ouch! Apparently he’s decided to single you out over your comments regarding helicopter tour companies. I thought you did a thorough job of researching your information before formulating your response. But I must say, Mr. Smith referring to you as “Bill O’Reilly on steroids” did give me a chuckle.

  3. Sonja Kass says:

    I thought William Smith does not use a lot of good arguments or facts in his letter, to counter Andy’s “blissfully ignorant” arguments, instead goes off calling him names.

    “Strive to fly safely” is a very relative term, as anyone hiking or hunting in Waimea canyon or Na Pali will know.

    “Between booking more customers on bad weather days and joyriding, it seems like business reasons override passenger safety” which Mr. Smith missquoted, is a fact! I personally know people who wanted to cancel their flights because of weather condition and were told they could not get their money back. I also saw their photos of clouds from above.

    Unfortunatelly I, as Andy’s wife, would not be very believable writing to the Garden Island, but I strongly encourage others who agree with us to do so!

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