Air Touring is becoming wildly popular as people are loving the opportunity to see the area they are vacationing in from the air in a helicopter, hot air balloon, or light airplane. The air touring or flightseeing industry has grown to a 600 million dollar a year industry with over 2 million people partaking of it. So it is a wonderful and fun way to see the a new region that typically is a beautiful place to look at.
But there are drawbacks to air touring as an article in Conde Nast Traveler explains.
Most people assume that all such companies in the United States operate under the same rules. In fact, while the majority are governed by FAA safety requirements known as Federal Aviation Regulations Part 135, others may operate under far less rigorous standards, known as Part 91, provided their aircraft take off and land from the same point and do not travel beyond a 25-mile radius. This means that anyone with a commercial pilot’s license and a plane can open a flightseeing business.
But not only mom-and-pop shops fly under Part 91 rules. More than a dozen air-tour companies ply the skies of Hawaii, the busiest airspace in the country after the Grand Canyon’s, and several of them are Part 91 operators. Until recently, these included Bali Hai HelicopterTours, one of whose choppers smashed into a mountain in central Kauai in September 2004, killing all five people on board (the company has since ceased operations). The helicopter that went down while touring Lower Manhattan on June 14 was also being flown under Part 91 regulations, as was the Cessna airplane that crashed during a sightseeing trip over Coney Island. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) statistics for air-tour accidents in 2004 indicate that 22 of the 28 involved companies were operating under Part 91. Nine of these accidents involved hot-air balloons. via Conde Nast Traveler
Now with more people using these services the rate of accidents can remain the same yet the number of accidents can increase, so these statistics can be confusing and scary.
My advice if you are interested in air touring, do a little research and find the more reputable company. If they cost a little more, there may be a reason. Also, if you are traveling overseas, do even more research. They do not operate under the same regulations that are required in the United States so there may be more risks involved.