ERHC pilots brave elements to get an update

 - February 2, 2007, 8:57 AM

Helicopter pilots gave a clear demonstration of their dedication to their profession last month by turning out in impressive numbers on one of the most frigid nights of the year, with a snowstorm tossed in for good measure, to attend a meeting of the Eastern Region Helicopter Council at the Hasbrouck Heights Hilton in Northern New Jersey. Approximately 75 pilots attended.

They received a briefing on improvements at the three New York City Heliports, a heads up on the Aviation Career Fair 2003, a report on the National Burn Victims Foundation Drill at Republic Airport in September and a report on noise-abatement awards presented at Westchester County Airport in White Plains, N.Y.

It was reported that the 34th Street Heliport has signed a 10-year lease with the city so that the New York City Economic Development Council, which runs the facility, can now proceed with improvements that will make the heliport more comfortable and user friendly.

Discussions are under way to explore the possibility of getting scheduled service from the Wall Street Heliport to Washington, D.C., and points in Connecticut, it was announced at the meeting. It was also reported that the heliport is now open to tour operators on Saturdays. Others wishing to use the facility on Saturdays must notify the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the FBO, in advance, and they are subject to a notam fee.

The West 30th Street Heliport has installed a new lighting system to provide for better nighttime operations, and the Manhattan Helicopter Task Force has agreed that New York City will have a three-heliport system, with one facility on the west side.

Pilots were informed that the ERHC will participate in this year’s Aviation Career Fair. The second edition of the two-day event was held last year in a hangar at Westchester County Airport. Some 2,000 high-school students were bused in for the event, and there were about 50 exhibitors present to advise young people of the career opportunities in aviation, the qualifications required and the preparation needed to meet those qualifications. Aircraft were on static display outside the hangar.

The disaster drill held by the ERHC in conjunction with the National Burn Victim Foundation was declared a success in spite of IMC with ceilings as low as 200 feet. Most missions were carried out by IFR-equipped aircraft in spite of the severe weather conditions, pilots were told.

Participating aircraft of ERHC members included those of Pfizer, Merck, Cigna, AT&T, General Electric, Honeywell and Altria. These aircraft transported medical staff, triage teams, medicine and equipment to the scene. They also conducted simulated victim transports.

The exercise demonstrated that the public and private sectors can work together well under emergency conditions. Another drill has been scheduled for May 15 at Morristown Airport, N.J. It is expected that eight or nine states will participate in this year’s exercise, compared with the five states that participated last year.

Noise Issue
Noise is one of the major issues helicopter operators have to deal with, and ERHC has established noise-abatement routes in the vicinity of all airports in the New York City region and has discussed these initiatives with public officials who, for the most part, agree that these routes are the best alternatives possible. Some of these routes were reviewed at the meeting, where the importance of pilots policing themselves was emphasized.

Pilots were advised to continue efforts to get higher altitudes from ATC to lessen the noise impact. It was suggested that they request an altitude of 1,400 feet, where possible.

Tribute was paid to a noise-abatement effort at Westchester County Airport, where “Spirit of Noise Abatement Awards” were presented to a number of helicopter operators. To be eligible for the award, operators must have observed the voluntary nighttime curfew for at least one year.

The helicopter operators that received the awards were Altria, Bristol Myers Squibb, Citigroup Aviation, General Electric, IBM Flight Operations, TAG Aviation and Skywalker Aviation.

The EHRC meeting highlighted one good example of a negative incident being converted into a positive situation, which will benefit a community that took action against a pilot on a life-saving mission in compliance with a city ordinance.

The widely publicized incident occurred in Stamford, Conn., where police issued a ticket to a helicopter pilot who landed at the Stamford Hospital to pick up an infant for transport to another hospital, where its life might be saved. A policeman was complying with city regulations when he issued the ticket. Stamford has an ordinance that says no helicopter can land within the city. The police later reconsidered and canceled the ticket.

After the incident it was agreed that the hospital will get an official heliport through the efforts of ERHC and Matt Zaccaro, a member of the board of directors and a special advisor to ERHC whose company, Zaccaro Industries, will donate its services to help establish the heliport.