Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Helicopter noise relief built into Congressional spending bill

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So what do paparazzi helicopters and a Congressional spending bill have in common?

A provision in the omnibus appropriations bill, introduced by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein and Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of Burbank, requires the Federal Aviation Agency to take action on helicopter noise…though not just yet.

Angelenos have been complaining for two decades about helicopter noise.  Last year, the FAA unveiled half a dozen voluntary measures designed to reduce the helicopter noise over Southern California. Language in the appropriations bill gives the FAA a year to see whether those self-regulating measures actually work. If they don’t, they become mandatory. Schiff says lawmakers wanted to give the FAA “a sense of urgency.”

Assuming that provision remains in the spending bill, that year begins as soon as the President signs the appropriations bill.

Feinstein says she's “optimistic this provision will improve the quality of life for millions of people living in Los Angeles.”

Activists are applauding the provision. Bob Anderson, president of the Los Angeles Area Helicopter Noise Coalition, says it "sounds like an excellent idea."

Gerry Hans, president of Friends of Griffith Park, says the park and the Hollywood sign have become a magnet for helicopter tours: “It's great news to finally see a timeline to produce better pilot behavior and flight rules.” 

Representatives from the Helicopter Association International located in Virginia and Burbank's Professional Helicopter Pilots Association were unavailable for comment. 

The six recommendations from the FAA:

  • Evaluate and adjust existing helicopter routes above Los Angeles, and make adjustments to such routes if the adjustments would lessen impacts on residential areas and noise-sensitive landmarks
  • Analyze whether helicopters could safely fly at higher altitudes in certain areas above Los Angeles County
  • Develop and promote best practices for helicopter hovering and electronic news gathering
  • Conduct outreach to helicopter pilots to inform them of voluntary policies and to increase awareness of noise sensitive areas and events
  • Work with local stakeholders to develop a more comprehensive noise complaint system
  • Continue to participate in collaborative engagement between community representatives and helicopter operators

The regulations would not restrict military flights or chopper activity by police and fire agencies.

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