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FAA Confirms Helicopter Pilot Lacked Instrument Rating

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Brice Banning/NTSB
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The helicopter pilot who was killed with six passengers last month while on a tour of Kauai's coastline did not have an instrument rating, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman confirmed Thursday.

While pilot Paul Ray Matero who was flying for Safari Helicopters held a commercial pilot license, the lack of an instrument rating means he was restricted in the flights he could fly.

"Air tours by definition are conducted under visual flight rules, so there is no requirement for a pilot to have an instrument rating," FAA said in an email. "However, pilots who lack instrument ratings are limited in the flights they can conduct."

The restrictions include carrying passengers at night, on flights in excess of 50 miles and under certain weather conditions.

A National Transportation Safety Board team is on Kauai investigating the deadly crash that occurred on a tour of the Na Pali Coast. The crash has renewed calls for stricter regulation of tour helicopters and small planes.

Most pilots who fly helicopters in Hawaii either don't have an instrument rating or their ratings aren't current, Ladd Sanger, a Texas aviation attorney and helicopter pilot who has handled Hawaii crash cases, told the Associated Press.

Earlier this week, NTSB said in an investigative update that the helicopter hit a ridge at an altitude of 2,900 feet and then fell about 100 feet. The post-crash fire consumed much of the aircraft.

The cause of the crash has not been determined. Weather is one factor investigators are exploring.

Weather reports on the day of the crash indiated a high pressure northwest of the state would cause winds across Kauai to shift out of the northwest.

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