During the last few days, the weather in Hawaii has been pretty bad with a lot of rain and wind, however today was the worse weather all week. It was probably a good day by mainland standards, but for flying in a helicopter, I would not have gone.
I know I have posted this several times before, but don't buy tickets on a helicopter tour until you know the weather is going to be good. For me, that would be the same day, or day before. The main reason is that you will not be able to see as much when there are a lot of clouds. The second reason is that the wind will make the ride very bumpy and most people get sick. The last reason is that it could be more dangerous.
As soon as you hear about a helicopter crash, you can bet that the cause was the pilot got caught in the weather, and could not see the terrain and the wind blew the aircraft into the mountain. This happens in most helicopter accidents in Hawaii. Additionally, it happened a couple years ago on the big island with a single engine Cessna that was giving a tour of the big island and additionally happened around 2003 to a Hawaii Air Ambulance twin engine Cessna 414 descending into Hilo.
In most cases, the pilots fly the same route three or four times each day and know where they are at, but the strong wind blows the aircraft off course and if the pilot can't see the mountains, the aircraft might hit the mountains. Most of these pilots do this every day and don't have a problem, but every once in a while, someone hits the mountain.
On a nice day, helicopter flying is safe. I read every accident report, news article and accident investigation I can get my hands on. My past experience includes 20 years as a Naval Aviation safety officer and eight years as ALPA safety and training for Aloha Airlines and more than 10,000 flight hours. The point is that I have been reading and watching every detail about these crashes over the years and in most cases, the cause is almost always the same. Below is what the local news posted a few hours ago.
By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email
MOLOKAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A 30-year-old pilot from Kihei, Maui and four passengers are dead after a tour helicopter slammed into a hillside on the east end of Molokai at about 12:15 PM Thursday.
Maui county fire officials say the weather in the area consisted of rain and a lot of wind.
The crash, involving a Blue Hawaiian tour helicopter, happened about a quarter-mile behind Kilohana Elementary. A newlywed couple from Pennsylvania and two people from Ontario, Canada were on the flight.
"On behalf of everyone here at Blue Hawaiian, we're devastated and we're going to do everything we can to cooperate with the authorities," Patti Chevalier, company president, said. "We are heart-broken."
School administrators say they heard a loud boom, which they initially thought was thunder since it had been raining. But they soon saw the chopper, which was engulfed in flames.
"The school health aid, whose office is in the back side of the campus, actually saw the helicopter run into the ridgeline behind the school," Richard Stevens, Kilohana Elementary principal, said.
One of the classrooms on campus served as a command post for emergency personnel.
"The rescue personnel got there very quickly," Stevens said. "I have more manpower at the school than I could have imagined for Molokai, so the kids are well taken care of."
The pilot was identified as Nathan Cline, 30. Two male passengers and two female passengers were also on the flight, which originated in Kahului, Maui.
Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa received the tragic news while participating in APEC events on Oahu.
"We truly want to express our sorrow to all of those whose families are involved," Arakawa said. "Blue Hawaiian, this is only the second accident they've had in the history of the company, so generally a very, very safe company."
In July 2000, all seven people on board were killed when a Blue Hawaiian helicopter went down near Iao Needle on Maui.
Arakawa says he knew the pilot on a personal level.
"He's taken us around when we had the tsunami problems," the mayor said. "We went around and we actually got to see all of the details, taking us real close. (He was) very experienced. We're just really sad that this has happened."
Workers at the company's Oahu location said they were grieving, but trying their best to reassure customers.
The Maui Visitors Bureau is working with the families of the passengers.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating.
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