Community fights with helicopter operators over noise from their aircraft are simmering in the U.S., with a short-term “cease fire” on the East Coast and growing dissatisfaction in the West.
In New York, a pending lawsuit forestalled new restrictions on helicopter flights to an uncontrolled airport in East Hampton, N.Y. that serves the collection of high-brow Eastern Long Island beach communities known as the Hamptons. Residents around the airport and under routes to it have long complained about helicopter noise.
On April 16, the East Hampton town board passed laws to restrict “noisy aircraft”—defined in a list it published—to one single landing and takeoff a week during the summer (the Hamptons’ busiest season) and prohibited their operation between 8 p.m. and 9 a.m. local time. The “noisy” list, based on “multiple published nosie levels” that exceed 91 decibels, includes more than 25 different helicopter types. The restrictions were to take effect May 19.
A coalition of helicopter operators and allies sued April 21 to block the restrictions, arguing they are illegal because the federal government regulates airspace.
After a federal judge indicated she expects to rule on the suit June 8, East Hampton officials said they would delay implementing the restrictions until the ruling. That averted new restrictions during the May 23-25 Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start of summer in the U.S.
Meanwhile in Los Angeles, residents complained that helicopter companies and the FAA are procrastinating in implementing measures to reduce noise. The president of the Los Angeles Area Helicopter Noise Coalition, Bob Anderson, told The Los Angeles Daily News the group “could not come close to reaching agreement with helicopter operators on any significant solutions” despite 55 stakeholder meetings over the past two years. His comments were provoked by a Jan. 16 FAA report entitled “Significant Progress Report on the Los Angeles Helicopter Initiative.”
Anderson said the group favors congressional intervention and has reached out to Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), who told The Daily News, “The FAA’s conclusion that residents have already achieved meaningful relief represents the triumph of hope over experience.” He added, “We will need to keep the pressure up on both the FAA and helicopter operators to address the problem or it will be necessary to mandate the FAA to take action.”