The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating a whistleblower report that says the agency did not take the appropriate steps to prevent two deadly helicopter crashes in Hawaii last year.
One of the crashes involved an aircraft operated by Safari Helicopters that was on a tour of Kauai’s Na Pali Coast. All seven people died, including the pilot and three minors.
The whistleblower, identified as FAA inspector Joe Monfort, told Senate investigators that his bosses denied him authorization to visit Safari Helicopters two times, preventing him from inspecting the helicopter before the crash, CBS News first reported Thursday.
The whistleblower also said that the FAA didn’t provide adequate oversight for another fatal crash of a tour helicopter that killed three people on the island of Oahu.
Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the FAA, told HuffPost in a statement that the agency was investigating the reports.
“The FAA takes allegations of wrongdoing very seriously and already has been conducting internal investigations into these claims. The FAA will cooperate fully with any subsequent investigations,” Gregor said.
In April, a helicopter operated by a tour company named Novictor Helicopters in Honolulu crashed onto a street in a suburb, killing all three onboard.
Eight months later, officials found the crash site of the Safari Helicopter aircraft on a remote mountaintop on Kauai’s north shore on Dec. 27.
Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) criticized the FAA for not taking the National Transportation Safety Board’s safety protocols seriously after the most recent crash and for increasing the number of flights in the state, The Associated Press reported.
“Tour helicopter and small aircraft operations are not safe, and innocent lives are paying the price,” Case told AP.
“In our Hawaii alone,” he added, “the industry, while stridently arguing that it is safe and sensitive to neighborhoods, has in fact ignored any sensible safety improvements, instead dramatically increasing in recent years its volume of flights, at all times of day and night, in seemingly all weather over more residential neighborhoods, and to more risky and remote locations, at lower altitudes, while completely failing to address ground safety and community disruption concerns.”
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