A New Tool to Help Provide Helicopter Noise Relief for Angelenos

Helicopters have long plagued Los Angeles County homeowners and businesses with disruptive and excessive noise. While the presence of helicopters in our large metropolis is a necessary part of law enforcement, firefighting, healthcare emergencies and news and traffic reporting, there are ways in which we can reduce the unwanted and unnecessary interference with our quality of life that often comes with low-flying or hovering craft.

Last year, I worked with Senators Feinstein and Boxer and members of the Los Angeles congressional delegation to successfully pass legislation requiring the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to combat helicopter noise. This legislation listed six criteria the FAA was required to meet within one year or be forced to regulate helicopter noise above Los Angeles County. That deadline passed in January and it remains to be seen if the Secretary of Transportation believes the FAA has met this standard. A final determination on whether sufficient progress has been made must come soon.

But even as we wait for the final determination from the Secretary of Transportation, we have taken one important step to increase transparency and accountability when it comes to helicopter noise.

Earlier this month, in an effort to identify bad actors and change helicopter operation practices in Los Angeles County, the FAA implemented a comprehensive noise complaint system. This new system uses radar to track and report flight paths of helicopters and publishes these flight patterns in an interactive map on (heli-noise-la.com). As a result, residents will now have the ability to track in near real-time the movements of helicopters in LA County, fill out a general form, or call in at 424-348-HELI (4354) to file a complaint.

It is my hope that this complaint system will allow the FAA to gather valuable information on the worst offenders in the sky—those who buzz our homes, outdoor concerts and backyards as well as those who hover at low altitude or at inconsiderate hours—so that we can identify those responsible. For years this kind of accountability has been lacking, allowing operators to point fingers at each other and escape responsibility.

Although this system is a step in the right direction, there is much more that needs to be done.

There are still a number of requirements outlined in the law that have yet to be fulfilled. Although the FAA has begun an effort to track helicopter routes in Los Angeles County, the parties have still not agreed to suggest alternate routes for pilots to lessen the noise impact commercial aircraft have in residential neighborhoods.  Nor have the pilots agreed with the FAA and the community on whether helicopters could fly safely at a higher altitude and whether a flight path adjustment could lessen the impact of helicopter noise in certain neighborhoods.

Helicopter pilots should work in good faith with the community and the FAA to address these important topics, or failing to do so, the FAA must uphold its legal obligation to regulate.

Source: Los Feliz Ledger