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Wed, Sep 14, 2011

FAA Cracks Down On Hawaii 'Flight Schools'

Ads Which Look Too Much Like Air Tours May Trigger Enforcement

The FAA appears to cracking down on the use of light sport aircraft for what it calls commercial air tours, and what some operators creatively call "introductory flight lessons."

The Associated Press reports a stricter surveillance plan was announced Friday in the wake of several recent accidents. FAA Western-Pacific Flight Standards Manager Nick Reye told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that some trike operators, quote - "...are trying to get around the air tour provision by offering scenic flights under the guise of introductory flying instruction."

Reyes promises more ramp checks and what were termed "interviews" with pilots to back up a recent meeting with weight-shift control operators to encourage more voluntary compliance. Operators have been warned that ads which appear to offer air tours will trigger enforcement action ranging from warnings to revocation of certificates, and that includes ads on the internet.

Five businesses in the state appear to be targeted. There have been five crashes of trikes in Hawaii in the last 18 months, two of them fatals involving passengers on what the FAA charges were commercial tour flights. Investigations are ongoing.

Since experimentals and S-LSAs cannot legally be used to carry persons or property for compensation or hire in the US, there's no legal way to simply sell someone a ride. But a flight instructor can use an S-LSA, or an experimental with a Letter of Deviation Authority, to provide dual training for pay. So, if you think you're interested in flying a weight-shift aircraft or gyroplane, and don't have a friend who will take you up free, the only way to get that first flight is to buy an hour of actual instruction.

That's understood by visitors to fly-ins catering to enthusiasts, but many tourists in Hawaii have no such long-term interest in the sport. They just want to go sight-seeing in something more bird-like than an AStar helicopter or an AirVan. Weight-shift flight schools will have to be more careful in their advertising presentations, but the nodding and winking are likely to continue.

FMI: www.faa.gov

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