Kauai Copter Crash Kills Four
Hawaiian tour industry officials have leapt to the defense of Heli-USA Airways after the helicopter tour operator suffered its second fatal crash in as many years this week. "I have every confidence in these guys," Mike Stewart, a local tour company operator who books flights with Heli-USA, told the Honolulu Advertiser. "I put my daughter alone on their flight." Three of seven people aboard the Heli-USA Aerospatiale A-Star died in the crash near Princeville on the Hawaiian island of Kauai on Thursday afternoon. A fourth died on the way to hospital, and the survivors were critically injured. Among the dead is pilot "Helicopter Joe" Sulak, who was reported by the newspaper to have more than 10,000 hours in the A-Star. The Advertiser said Sulak reported unspecified hydraulics problems about two miles from the airport and the helicopter crashed just short of the Princeville runway. It was the fifth fatal air tour crash on Kauai in four years and the second for Heli-USA. The tour helicopter crashes in Hawaii were partly responsible for the FAA's establishment of new air tour safety standards that were included in a final rule enacted last Feb. 13. The previous Heli-USA crash, in which an A-Star ditched in the ocean off Kauai in September of 2005, led to the requirement that air-tour helicopters operating over water be equipped with inflatable emergency floats. In that crash, which ultimately killed all six on board (three died in the helicopter, two drowned and one died of a heart attack after almost drowning), the NTSB faulted the pilot for continuing the flight into adverse weather.