U.S. Rep. Ed Case of Hawaiʻi reintroduces Safe and Quiet Skies Act

Listen to this Article
4 minutes
Loading Audio... Article will play after ad...
Playing in :00

U.S. Rep. Ed Case (HI-01) reintroduced his Safe and Quiet Skies Act to impose strict safety regulations on commercial air tour operations to include helicopters and small planes. 

H.R. 1071 in the 118th Congress would direct the Federal Aviation Administration to adopt tighter safety recommendations long advanced by the National Transportation Safety Board in the wake of repeated deadly crashes across the country. 

The measure would also authorize state and local government to impose reasonable conditions of the operation of such aircraft to address worsening noise and other community disruption from increasingly frequent and intrusive operations. 

A tour helicopter crashed on the Big Island in 2022. Photo Courtesy: NTSB

“My Hawai’i is but one example of these worsening concerns nationwide,” Case said. “For too many years, Hawai‘i has seen deadly crashes of commercial air tour helicopters, including in residential neighborhoods, and far too many  dead from the crashes of commercial skydiving planes.

“Following just three of the most recent tragedies at Kailua, Kaua’i and Dillingham Airfield, which are not isolated instances nationally, the NTSB, which is responsible for investigating accidents but not for direct safety regulation, suggested strongly and directly to the FAA that safety-related regulation of commercial tour helicopters and small aircraft skydiving  operations is generally insufficient.” 


These tragedies occurred amidst a rapid increase in commercial helicopter and small plane overflights of all parts of Hawai‘i including residential, commercial and industrial neighborhoods, cemeteries and memorials, land and marine parks and other recreation areas, and sensitive military installations.

“Clearly the FAA should now follow the NTSB’s lead before any more lives  are lost, and clearly Congress must act to protect lives and property and to allow communities to regulate against unacceptable disruption if as is clear  the FAA will not,” Case said.

The bill is introduced as Congress takes up reauthorization of the FAA.  Case is joined in its introduction by:

  • Rep. Jerry Nadler (NY), the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee
  • Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (Washington, DC), the senior Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to which the bill was referred and which will address FAA reauthorization
  • Rep. Nydia Velazquez (NY), the ranking  member of the House Small Business Committee
  • Rep. Jill Tokuda (HI)
  • Rep. Brad  Sherman (CA)
  • Rep. Dan Goldman (NY)

“Last year, nearly 8,000 commercial air tours flew over National  Parks of New York Harbor Management Unit sites, which include national treasures like the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island,” Nadler said. “The large volume of commercial air tours over these sites are increasingly unsafe and create substantial quality of life issues for New Yorkers and tourists alike through noise and environmental impacts.”


The Quiet Skies Caucus has about 60 members of Congress.

Case said the FAA currently takes the position that its responsibility is strictly operational safety and national airspace efficiency and does not extend to ground disruption and other negative impacts. 

“As a result, the operators, aside from strict takeoff and approach, avoidance of established flight paths and other limited circumstances, are virtually free to fly wherever, whenever and as often as they want,” Case said. “And they do with little to no self-regulation.” 

The measure’s reintroduction follows funding and related provisions included in the Fiscal Year 2023 Omnibus Appropriations bill that funds $19 billion for the FAA, including $1.6 billion for aviation safety and Case’s call for additional funding for the FAA’s community engagement capacity.


The bill also requires the FAA to make aggregated information about noise complaints available to the public and includes Case’s request to direct the  FAA to work with other federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, to participate in community engagement to address noise concerns. Case serves on the House Appropriations Committee and helped to draft and pass the bill through Congress.  

Building on these efforts, the Safe and Quiet Skies Act would:

  • Require that tour flights fly above the 1,500-foot altitude over actual ground at all times with very limited exceptions for emergencies and takeoff/landing. 
  • Require tour flights over occupied areas (including residential, commercial and recreational areas) to be no louder than 55 dbA, the same level of noise commonly allowed for residential areas. 
  • Allow states and localities to impose additional requirements – stricter  than the minimum national requirements called for in the Act – on tour flights. 
  • Require that all regulations under this Act, in addition to any updates to any Air Tours Common Procedure Manuals (voluntary  understandings between operators and the FAA), include public engagement. 
  • Prohibit tour flights over military installations, national cemeteries, national wilderness areas, national parks and national wildlife refuges. 
  • Apply the “sterile cockpit rule” to tour flights, which requires that pilots only focus on safely operating the aircraft and would define tour giving and narrating as outside of the duties required for safe operation. 
  • Require FAA to implement NTSB recommendations regarding Part 135 regulations, which most tour flights fly under. 
  • Require all tour flights to fly under Part 135 regulations and prohibit tour flights from flying under less restrictive Part 91 regulations.

Sponsored Content

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay in-the-know with daily or weekly
headlines delivered straight to your inbox.


This comments section is a public community forum for the purpose of free expression. Although Big Island Now encourages respectful communication only, some content may be considered offensive. Please view at your own discretion. View Comments