Helo Ops Unite To Block Housing Development

 - October 9, 2007, 7:35 AM

It’s the helicopter equivalent of the “man bites dog” story. In a refreshing role reversal, the three major commercial helicopter operators at the Houma-Terrebonne Airport outside Houma, La., have allied to block a proposed 50-lot suburban housing subdivision. Petroleum Helicopters, Air Logistics and Era Aviation, the big three among Gulf of Mexico offshore-oil support operators, are blocking the planned Patriot Point subdivision as part of their stated opposition to residential encroachment on or near airport properties. “If an airport comes to the community, the inevitable noise complaints are understandable, expected and valid,” Rick Oeder, Era Aviation’s director of operations, wrote in a letter to the Houma-Terrebonne Regional Planning Commission. “If, however, the community comes to the nuisance, as is the case with Patriot Point, the noise complaints, while still expected and inevitable, are not valid.”

The three helicopter operators on the airport and the frequent transients account for some 4,000 rotorcraft movements a month, the local commission estimates. While the airport cannot legally bar construction on the site, there is sentiment among both local commissioners and airport executives that prospective Patriot Point property owners should be made aware of the sound levels they will experience from the airport and that those noise levels are likely to increase. Airport manager Earl Hicks advised the commission that the airport is in the process of attracting larger aircraft operators. “We want them to be advised the airport could get more noisy,” Hicks said. “Bigger planes mean more noise.”