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

Schiff 'disappointed' with FAA progress on helicopter noise

Helicopter noise in Southern California has become a federal issue.
Helicopter noise in Southern California has become a federal issue.
Erika Aguilar/KPCC

The Federal Aviation Administration gave Congress an update on its efforts to reduce helicopter noise in the skies over Southern California. The FAA says it's making "good progress." Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of Burbank says it's not good enough.

The FAA began meeting with Southern California residents and chopper pilots six months ago to try to come up with ways to reduce helicopter noise. In late January, the FAA gave Congress a progress report. The agency met in September with various LA agencies, breaking into "working groups" to break down the issues into "manageable components."

Democrat Adam Schiff of Burbank says he's "disappointed" and unless the agency “really steps it up,” it won't meet the one-year Congressional deadline to show results. He says some action items, like developing a comprehensive complaint system, "so that we know which helicopters are causing the problem, they have delegated that to the stakeholder groups and said essentially, 'we're going to let you come up with that solution'."

The FAA had no response to Schiff's criticism, but referred to its May 2013 report that says the agency intends to “follow through" on the LA helicopter noise initiative "in cooperation with local stakeholders to improve the helicopter noise situation within Los Angeles County.” In its January 30th report to Congress, the FAA says it will support the working groups "with subject matter experts and technical information."

Residents agree with Schiff. Bob Anderson, president of the Los Angeles Area Helicopter Noise Coalition, says there have been "a number of meetings" held without much real progress being made. He says residents offered suggestions for "tangible solutions" to reduce noise, but says "the FAA and pilots have not embraced these due to cost and other concerns."

The FAA cited cost in its January 30th letter to Congress, saying "it is important to note that implementation timetables are dependent on resource demands and budgetary realities."

Congress included a mandate in the omnibus spending bill for the FAA to show results from its voluntary program within a year or be forced to impose mandatory regulations. There was no extra money included in the bill for the FAA to carry out the program.

Some are skeptical that Schiff's push will make any difference. Commercial helicopter pilot Zoey Tur says the real issue with LA's airspace is noise from police and fire department aircraft, which are exempt from proposed regulations. "Nothing can prevent the fire department helicopters from disturbing residents as they fight fires and airlift the ill and injured to emergency rooms."