The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) joined the strong opposition to a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives last month that would essentially ban Part 91 and 135 helicopter flights over New York City. New York Democratic Reps. Jerrold Nadler, Carolyn Maloney, and Nydia Velazquez introduced “The Improving Helicopter Safety Act of 2019” last month that aims to prohibit such flights over “any city with a population of over eight million people and with a population density of over 25,000 people per square mile.”
“This particular proposal is poorly disguised as safety legislation when in actuality it really is another anti-aviation Nimby-ism proposal,” said Jonathon Freye, v-p of government and public affairs for NATA. He added that the association “strongly opposes any attempt to restrict access to the national airspace system especially in instances like this one where they single out one group.”
In addition to the harm on the helicopter industry in New York, Freye was concerned at broader ramifications of such a bill. “Proposals like this one are a slippery slope that embolden other policymakers to pursue similar legislation,” he said. Due process is a concern, Freye added, saying they are offered “without considering the repercussions on business and the industry that continue to be an economic driver for the communities and airports where they reside.”
Also concerning is the proposal is the latest in a series of attempts by lawmakers to restrict airspace access at the local level. “It’s a constant drumbeat of legislators trying to whittle away at access for aviation stakeholders and that’s the problem.”
While the proposal might not progress this year, Freye said, “I think its incumbent on our industry to take all proposals like this one seriously. Whether or not it will pass, it reflects some kind of sentiment and represents a call for our industry to reengage with policymakers.”
Plenty of examples exist where the industry can have a dialog with communities that results in a balance that “provides some sense of satisfaction to local communities without impeding communities,” Freye added.
NATA comments come as Helicopter Association International also has strongly objected to the bill, saying it is “an attempt to completely dismantle a thriving industry” and further characterized it as having a chilling effect on the development of one of the potentially largest urban air mobility markets in the world.