Hawaii helicopter crash pilot lost licence for 2010 drug use

LIHUE (AP) — A pilot who was flying a sightseeing helicopter that crashed in Hawaii in December 2019 had his licence revoked for marijuana use in 2010.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revoked the medical, commercial pilot and flight instructor certificates of Safari Helicopters pilot Paul Matero in June 2010, The Garden Island reported on Wednesday.

After the positive drug test, Matero was issued temporary “special-issuance” certifications following a one-year waiting period, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said. “A special-issuance medical certificate enables the FAA to limit the validity of the certificate to a shorter-than-normal time period, and to require the pilot to provide information showing that they are continuing to successfully address a medical condition,” Gregor said in an email to The Associated Press (AP) on Thursday.

“Pilots who continue to demonstrate sobriety for an extended period can get regular medical certification.” The FAA issued Matero a standard licence in 2012 after further testing. “When a pilot’s certificate is revoked, they have to wait at least a year to apply for a new certificate. They don’t get the old one back,” Gregor siad. “Applying for a new certificate requires them to go through the same tests that a first-time applicant would go through.”

The pilot was rehired and returned to flight duty after completing a substance abuse treatment programme and receiving his renewed licences said Safari spokesperson Matt Barkett.

A coast guard vessel searches along the Na Pali Coast on the Hawaiian island of Kauai after a tour helicopter disappeared with seven people aboard. PHOTO: AP