Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Chopper noise: Schiff, Feinstein express 'strong disappointment' to FAA on progress

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It's been nearly a year since the Federal Aviation Administration published a report on its Los Angeles Helicopter Noise Initiative. Senator Dianne Feinstein and Burbank Congressman Adam Schiff — both Democrats — sent a letter to the FAA on Monday to complain about the agency's lack of progress implementing the agency's own list of six action items

In the letter, Feinstein and Schiff express their "strong disappointment" with the FAA's followup to its May, 2013 report. 

The lawmakers say they've received just one update that didn't include a "detailed schedule, as we had previously requested, and lacks metrics on how progress will be demonstrated."

Language included in this year's spending bill for the FAA requires the agency to show results within a year. But Congress didn't allocate any extra money for the FAA to carry out the job. 

Lawmakers say they're concerned the FAA "relies too heavily" on volunteer stakeholders to do the agency's work monitoring helicopter noise. The FAA's May 2013 report says the agency will work "in cooperation with local stakeholders" to improve the situation. In its January 30th report to Congress, the FAA said it would provide local groups with experts and technical information.

Feinstein and Schiff also want the FAA to expand its oversight to the entire Los Angeles County area. They write: "Los Angeles County residents have been plagued by frequent and disruptive helicopter noise for far too long and deserve relief."

A spokesman for the FAA says "we received the letter and are reviewing it."


  • Evaluate existing helicopter routes to identify feasible modifications that could lessen impacts on residential areas and noise-sensitive landmarks. Any new routes intended to provide noise relief will be evaluated to avoid simply shifting noise from one residential neighborhood to another. Safety Risk Management studies would be required to ensure that helicopters can transition airspace safely and efficiently
  • Analyze whether helicopters could safely fly at higher altitudes in certain areas along helicopter routes and at specific identified areas of concern. Any proposed altitude changes would be required to go through an FAA Safety Risk Management Panel prior to adoption.
  • Develop and promote best practices for helicopter hovering and electronic newsgathering. Hover times are site-specific and event-specific. The FAA will continue to issue Advisory Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) for large events and encourage helicopter operators and news organizations to employ practices that reduce noise
  • Conduct outreach to helicopter pilots to increase awareness of noise-sensitive areas and events. A collaborative effort among the FAA, pilot groups, and communities has identified noise “hot spots” within the Los Angeles Basin. The FAA seeks to increase pilots’ situational awareness of noise problems on the ground and of community issues with noise.
  • Explore a more comprehensive noise complaint system. A centralized system that provides a single repository for helicopter noise complaints in Los Angeles County maybe more advantageous than current individual systems, with differing geographic and jurisdictional coverage. The FAA will support the assessment of the prospects for developing such a system with homeowners’ associations and operator groups.
  • Continue the collaborative engagement between community representatives and helicopter operators, with interaction with the FAA. A significant positive result of the Los Angeles Helicopter Noise Initiative is that community representatives and helicopter operators plan to meet regularly, with input from the FAA, to identify specific noise sensitive locations and helicopter operating practices that contribute to noise concerns. The group is committed to identifying measures that will provide noise relief without degrading safety or eroding business opportunities.



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