- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 11, 2014

HONOLULU (AP) - Two people died Tuesday on Kauai in the crash of a motorized, seated hang glider owned by a company that markets itself to visiting travelers even though federal regulations prohibit the aircraft from being used for tours or thrill rides.

The identities of the victims aren’t known, Kauai County said in a statement.

The light sport aircraft crashed on the side of a mountain near Polihale Beach, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said. The site is in Waiakamoo Valley below Kokee in the western part of Kauai, the county said.

The aircraft - an Evolution Trikes Revo - is registered to Birds in Paradise LLC, a company that advertises scenic flights for tourists billed as introductory flight lessons rather than aerial tours. A message left on the company’s answering machine was not immediately returned Tuesday.

A caller notified police dispatch of a fire in the area Tuesday morning. An initial investigation revealed the fire was caused by the crash.

Police were helping firefighters secure the scene while officials investigate the cause of the crash, the county said.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said. Two FAA investigators are en route to Kauai, Gregor said.

FAA regulations prohibit the type of aircraft that crashed from being rented out for tours or thrill rides. The regulations allow commercial use of light sport aircraft only for flight training or to tow a glider or an unpowered ultralight aircraft.

FAA regulators met with Hawaii operators of similar aircraft after a series of five crashes, three fatal, between April 2010 and May 2011. Nick Reyes, flight standards manager of the FAA’s Western-Pacific division, said at the time that operators needed to follow rules that distinguish flight instruction from air tours.

Birds in Paradise operates out of the Port Allen Airport in Hanapepe. The company’s website said it has been operating powered gliders over Kauai since the early 1990s.

Its flights are not aerial tours, the company’s website says.

“Our training area happens to be over the beautiful island of Kauai,” the website said. “Our main goal is teaching you about the easiness and fun of this sport.”

The website describes the experience as exhilarating and a thrill, with breathtaking views. The Evolution Trike aircraft can cruise at speeds up to 100 miles per hour, it says.

“You are in for an experience and adventure of a lifetime,” the company site says.

The website markets the company to travelers, prominently featuring a review by a TripAdvisor contributor and testimonials from places like Chicago, Houston and San Jose, Calif.

In May 2011, a pilot and a student were killed when a Kauai Aerosports motorized hang glider crashed into the ocean off the north shore of Kauai.

That crash came three months after a pilot and his passenger were killed when a similar aircraft owned by Big Sky Kauai crashed off the island’s south shore. A National Transportation Safety Board report said this crash was probably caused by the flight instructor not maintaining control at low altitude.

In April 2010, a microlight aircraft crashed and sank in Kealakekua Bay off the Big Island, killing a passenger and the pilot, who was also the owner of Tedd’s Flying Adventures.


Associated Press Writer Oskar Garcia contributed to this report.

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