The Federal Aviation Administration is stepping up enforcement of flight regulations of powered hang gliders in Hawaii.
A stricter surveillance plan was announced Friday by officials in the wake of several recent crashes. Nick Reyes, FAA western-Pacific flight standards manager, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that some operators of the aircraft, also known as “strikes,” have ignored federal rules banning their use for air tours.
According to federal standards, pilots are only allowed to carry passengers who are flight students.
“It appears some operators are trying to get around the air tour provision by offering scenic flights under the guise of introductory flying instructions,” Reyes said.
Reyes said the plan will call for more unannounced visits, interviews with pilots and record examinations of aircraft operators. Officials also held a meeting with weight-shift control operators to encourage more voluntary compliance.
The operators were told any advertisement that appears to offer air tours would be basis for enforcement action that ranges from warnings to revocation of certification. They were also informed that changes need to be made in ads on the Internet within a week or two.
Five trike businesses operate in the state – one each on Oahu, Kauai, and Maui and two on Hawaii island.
Reyes said the FAA did not need new regulations, since the rules are clear.
There have been five crashes of trikes in the islands in the past year-and-a-half. Two of them were fatal and involved operators carrying visitors for commercial tours.
The first, involving pilot Tedd Hecklin, 38, and Kailua-Kona resident Kathryn Moran, 37, occurred at Kealakekua Bay on Hawaii island in April 2010. A friend of Moran’s said she was celebrating her birthday and taking a tour.
The second took place in the ocean off Hanapepe on Kauai on Feb. 15. Pilot Jim Gaither, 55, and visitor Kim Buergel, 49, of Washington state, were both killed.
The crashes remained under FAA investigation.
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