‘Fly neighborly’: Meeting set to discuss helicopter noise

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald file photo

    A Blue Hawaiian helicopter unloads its passengers at the Hilo International Airport.

The state Department of Transportation’s Airports Division later this month will host a public information meeting regarding commercial helicopter flights over residential areas, the DOT announced Wednesday.

Representatives from the DOT, the Federal Aviation Administration and Hawaii Helicopter Association will be at the meeting to receive input from the community and answer questions.

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The meeting is scheduled for 2-4 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14, at Nani Mau Gardens, 421 Makalika St. in Hilo. A number of residents told the Tribune-Herald they plan to attend.

Pahoa resident Sharon Lee is one.

For years, Lee said, noise pollution from tour helicopters, taking a route over her home in the Ainaloa community to Pu‘u ‘O‘o, “was endless.”

The constant noise is “tough on one’s physical and mental well-being,” she said.

The flights over her home only ended with the start of the Kilauea volcano eruption in Leilani Estates at the beginning of May.

Helicopters now cross over other neighborhoods such as Hawaiian Paradise Park and Hawaiian Beaches, Lee said.

She can still hear the helicopters, although they’re “not over my head all the time.” But she knows “if it’s not in my backyard, it’s in somebody else’s backyard.”

“I’m hopeful we can convince the powers-that-be to require the tour helicopters to fly neighborly,” she said.

Since the Aug. 14 meeting includes the FAA and the DOT, among others, Lee said some progress might be made.

“We’re just really hopeful something can work out to mitigate the noise nuisance situation,” she said.

Bob Ernst is a founding board member of HICoP, or the Hawaii Island Coalition Malama Pono, a nonprofit organization that aims to “restore serenity to Hawaii Island, free from tour copter noise nuisance pollution.”

According to Ernst, who owns property in Mountain View, the noise issue is one that’s been going on for decades

HICoP will be “well-represented” at the Aug. 14 meeting, Ernst said, but the group is expecting more than talk. It’s looking for meaningful results.

The issues are already well-known, he said.

“This meeting shouldn’t be just about what the issue is,” Ernst said. “This meeting should be how are we going to solve the impact of tour copters flying over residences on Hawaii Island.”

It’s also a chance for residents to “let the officials again know how much they’re being impacted, and let them know you want to see a solution implemented yesterday because this cannot continue.”

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The meeting also is accessible to people with disabilities. Contact Daryl Fujita at 838-8884 to request an auxiliary aid or service such as sign language, interpreter, designated parking or materials in an alternate format.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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