On December 27, 2019, a tour helicopter in Hawaii crashed near the dramatic Kauai coastline resulting in the death of six passengers and the pilot. While one factor of the crash is suspected to be weather conditions, conclusive evidence from the Federal Aviation Administration revealed the pilot did not have an instrument rating, which allows pilots to fly in bad weather.
Dallas Managing Partner Ladd Sanger told the Associated Press, “Most pilots who fly helicopters in Hawaii either don’t have an instrument rating or their ratings aren’t current. When you have dynamic weather conditions, where you have clouds and winds, it might be more prudent not to fly in those conditions.”
Touring helicopter companies have received increased scrutiny over the last decade due to the number of crashes and fatalities, Sanger told Newsweek. “Tour flights like this fly with low visibility and are subject to drastic weather changes. Many times, the pilots are not experienced enough to combat the changes.”
In his interview with USA Today, Sanger advised tour operators to have more discretion to cancel during unfavorable weather conditions and customers to inquire about the type of engine they’ll be operating before proceeding with a tour. “Ask whether the company operates a single-engine or dual-engine helicopter. A dual-engine helicopter is better in an emergency since one can operate if the other fails.”