California Legislators Press FAA on LA Helicopter Noise Plan

 - December 3, 2013, 2:30 AM

A group of California politicians wants the FAA to move faster to address the helicopter noise issue in the Los Angeles basin.

In a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, members of California’s U.S. congressional delegation to the region, led by U.S. Reps. Adam Schiff and Brad Sherman and U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, bemoaned the lack of progress on the issue over the last six months in developing and implementing a plan to address the issue. So far, the elements of that plan are voluntary, and were published by the FAA in May. They include the following six steps:

1. Evaluate existing helicopter routes to identify feasible modifications that could lessen impact on residential areas and noise-sensitive landmarks.

2. Analyze whether helicopters could safely fly at higher altitudes in certain areas along helicopter routes and at specific identified areas of concern.

3. Develop and promote best practices for helicopter hovering and electronic news gathering.

4. Conduct outreach to helicopter pilots to increase awareness of noise-sensitive areas and events.

5. Explore a more comprehensive noise complaint system.

6. Continue the collaborative engagement between community representatives and helicopter operators, with interaction with the FAA.

Members of the delegation noted, “We are concerned that we have not yet seen measurable progress implementing the steps specified in the report. We understand FAA officials recently attended a collaborative meeting in Los Angeles between community representatives and helicopter operators, and have upcoming meetings planned. We are pleased to see this ongoing dialogue. However, moving forward, we believe that it is critical for the FAA to develop and release to all stakeholders a schedule to complete the six steps outlined in the Report on the Los Angeles Helicopter Noise Initiative. Having a clear process for how and when the FAA will complete the report’s next steps will greatly benefit the efforts to develop safe guidelines that reduce helicopter noise.”

The delegation requested a response from the FAA by the end of last month.

Separately, Rep. Sherman again threatened legislation if the FAA does not act more swiftly. “Angelinos deserve peace and quiet, and if the FAA won’t act to regulate disruptive and preventable helicopter traffic noise, Congress must pass legislation to give residents the relief they deserve,” he said.

To date, prior attempts to introduce such measures have not cleared congressional committees and/or been defeated when attached to other legislation. The provisions of any voluntary or mandatory plan likely would exempt public-use and EMS helicopters. There are more than 50 helicopters in the combined fleets of the Los Angeles police, sheriff, county and city fire departments alone.