Torrance approves higher elevation, tweaked routes for helicopters

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To try and cut down on noise, the Torrance City Council has approved altered routes and new altitude requirements for helicopters. The City Council made the unanimous decision after a three-and-a-half hour discussion that lasted until about midnight.

Some people who live near Torrance Airport say the helicopters buzz over their neighborhoods at low enough altitudes that they have to stop conversations and can't enjoy themselves outdoors.

They teamed with aviation experts and other stakeholders to come up with solutions through a helicopter noise committee. Their suggestion: solidify helicopter routes and make the helicopters fly higher over the area.

The Torrance Airport Commission agreed with the new routes, but did not want the City Council to change the altitude requirements.

Torrance Airport commissioner and long-time pilot Bill Tymczyszyn testified before the City Council that the helicopter noise committee's solution makes flying more dangerous because it puts slower helicopters in the same altitude range as faster airplanes. He compared that to driving on the freeway.

"Have you ever had an uneasy feeling while driving in the diamond lane? You're doing 65 or 70 miles an hour and the fast lane right next to you comes to a stop," Tymczyszyn said. "Cars are crawling along and then frustrated drivers begin to pull out into the diamond lane at a very slow speed. If one does that right in front of you, you will collide. There is no difference in flight. That's the hazard."

The Torrance City Council did unanimously agree to change the altitude for helicopters that use the airport, but it added language to allow the choppers to drop lower if they need to for safety reasons.

The City Council also agreed to new helicopter routes that, for the first time, will be published online so visiting pilots will be able to easily research where they're supposed to fly.

They'll check back in a few months to see whether the new requirements have made a difference.