Operators skewer proposed Long Island VFR routing

 - August 2, 2010, 5:45 AM

Public comments about the FAA’s proposed mandatory helicopter routing over New York’s Long Island are overwhelmingly negative, according to the Eastern Region Helicopter Council (ERHC). Before the comment period closed on June 25, the FAA received 690 comments, 86 percent of which opposed the proposed rule. The FAA declined the request of a broad-based coalition of industry groups, including NBAA, AOPA, GAMA, NATA and HAI, to extend the public comment period an additional 60 days. 

In May the agency published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM, FAA-2010-0302) that would require all helicopters transiting the Long Island area of New York VFR to use the North Shore Route–a voluntary overwater route created in 2008 for noise abatement (FAA Order 7210.3). The FAA’s decision to mandate the route appears to have come as the result of political pressure from U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY). 

Many of the comments in opposition to the proposed rule were heated, and pilot Nadine Fetsko’s were typical: “It’s unconscionable that the FAA would actually consider implementing this in the absence of any sound studies, radar returns or any quantifiable data that support the premise that a major issue exists. This rule simply denies all logic and could potentially create an enforcement nightmare.” 

HAI chairman Matt Zuccaro called the proposed rule “unprecedented, dangerous and unjustified” and noted that 85 percent of the noise complaints the EHRC receives “are being generated by 10 individuals.” 

Zuccaro said that the FAA’s legal authority to enact the rule “is questionable” under the Code of Federal Regulations cited in the NPRM. 

The ERHC called on the FAA to “withdraw its proposal in its entirety” and the group’s chairman, Jeff Smith, warned that it would “have the unintended effect of concentrating noise and traffic to the detriment of safety.”