Represent! | Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Helicopter noise: Angelenos still waiting for relief

TV news helicopters are being targeted by L.A.-area residents who are seeking noise regulations from the FAA.
TV news helicopters are being targeted by L.A.-area residents who are seeking noise regulations from the FAA.

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Southern California residents continue to complain about helicopter noise over their homes. Meanwhile, lawmakers in Washington have been putting pressure on federal officials to act.

Southern California lawmakers recently asked a budget conference committee to include language in the appropriations bill that directs the Secretary of Transportation to address the problem. 

It's been a continuing issue all year.

The Federal Aviation Administration got an earful from Southern California residents last summer at a Griffith Park meeting on helicopter noise. The FAA had just unveiled its report on the problem, identifying the main requests from residents: different routes, higher altitudes, a limit on hovering, quieter choppers, fewer news helicopter flights, and creating a "forum" to address noise issues. 

After listening to homeowners at the June meeting, the agency declined to take immediate action, saying it needed more data, calling the airspace over Southern California among the most “congested and complex in the world.” 

Lawmakers in Washington, such as Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of Burbank, have been keeping tabs on the FAA’s progress. He says the agency is researching the hot spots and what recommendations they can make on flight routes and minimum altitudes.

"We are trying to keep their feet to the fire," Schiff says. "We don’t want this process of soliciting stakeholder input to go on indefinitely."

Schiff is one of the lawmakers asking the committee reconciling the budget agreements to include language in the Senate version from California Democrat Dianne Feinstein that calls on the FAA and the Secretary of Transportation to "evaluate and adjust existing helicopter routes above Los Angeles."

The FAA has acted to reduce noise over parts of Long Island. But the FAA says both the kind of choppers and the geography on the east coast are different. Helicopters there are mostly used to ferry passengers to and from New York City. Choppers above L.A. are often carry reporters, police officers, or paparazzi.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story included a photograph that depicted an LAPD helicopter. Law enforcement agencies are not a target of the current legislation.