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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, March 21, 2001

Air tour operators suffer rough 2000

By David Waite
Advertiser Staff Writer

Last year was not a particularly good one for air tour operators in Hawai'i and across the nation, according to statistics released yesterday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Air taxis reported an increase to 80 accidents nationwide in 2000 from 73 the year before, and the 71 fatalities were almost double the total for 1999, according to the NTSB statistics.

Two of the fatal accidents happened in Hawai'i.

A pilot and six passengers were killed July 21 when a tour helicopter operated by Blue Hawaiian Helicopter crashed while flying in '?ao Valley on Maui.

About a month later, one passenger was killed, and the pilot and seven other passengers received minor injuries when a twin-engine plane operated by Big island Air Inc. was forced to ditch in the ocean off Hilo International Airport while attempting an emergency landing.

In 1999, a pilot and nine passengers were killed when another twin-engine plane operated by Big Island Air slammed into the slopes of Mauna Loa, at an elevation of about 10,000 feet.

The NTSB has yet to release a final report on what likely caused the sightseeing tour accidents in 1999 and 2000.

Overall, the Safety Board reported that 92 people were killed last year in accidents involving large U.S. air carriers.

The deaths were the 88 people who died in the crash of Alaska Airlines flight 261 off the coast of California Jan. 31; the three crew members of an Emery Worldwide Airlines' DC-8 that crashed Feb. 16 near Sacramento, Calif.; and an American Airlines flight attendant who was fatally injured during an emergency evacuation Nov. 20 in Miami, Fla.