City suspends routine flight operations for police and fire helicopters


HFD and HPD helicopters remained on the ground on Monday with both departments suspending routine flight operations.  Thankfully there were no situations which they needed to respond to with their helicopters on Monday.

The city made the drastic move after learning the company that’s been maintaining the police and fire helicopters is filing for bankruptcy, and is no longer insured.

The Honolulu Fire Department uses its helicopter to bring hikers down from the mountain, to help with searches, and to help put out brush fires.

The Honolulu Police Department uses its helicopter as an extra set of eyes up in the sky, like it did last week, when officers were looking for a burglary suspect thought to be hiding in the brush.

HPD grounded its chopper Monday morning.  And HFD elected to take Air 1 offline because of what’s happening to Rotor Wing Hawaii.

The company, located off Lagoon Drive, has had the contract to maintain and insure the police and fire helicopters since 2001, plus provide hangar and crew space.

But the owner recently passed away, and the city says the company will be in Chapter 7 bankruptcy by the end of the week.  On top of that, the company’s basic insurance expired on Sunday.

“The budget department does not want the helicopters flying without insurance and a maintenance crew,” Mayor Caldwell’s Communications Director Jesse Broder Van Dyke said in an email.  “Both HPD and HFD have suspended routine flight operations.”

And that means “No training, practice, non-specific patrol, no aerial survey work … however HFD can and would fly if needed for emergency search and rescue and firefighting.”

HFD took Air 1 offline completely on Monday morning, but brought it back into service for emergencies at 4 p.m.

The Department said in a statement: “The pre-established agreement with HFD’s federal partners ensured that there was no impact on emergency response services or the safety of HFD personnel.”  Meaning that federal firefighters or the Coast Guard would’ve stepped in to help if needed, during the time when Air 1 was out of service.

The city is now working to get a new vendor to maintain and insure the police and fire helicopters, and expects to have a new contract by the end of the week.  But until that happens, routine flight operations will continue to be suspended.

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