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Lawmakers Propose Legislation to Minimize Helicopter Noise

Congressman Adam Schiff and other county lawmakers aim to regulate helicopter flight paths above Los Angeles County.

Lawmakers introduced legislation Tuesday to help minimize the noise and safety concerns caused by low-flying helicopters above residential neighborhoods.

Congressman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Senators Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and other Los Angeles County congressional leaders introduced the Los Angeles Residential Helicopter Noise Relief Act, which would require the Federal Aviation Administration to impose regulations on flight paths and set minimum altitudes for helicopters flying in Los Angeles County.

The lawmakers say the proposed legislation addresses the high volume of residential complaints regarding the level of noise from low-flying helicopters.

Schiff said that residents living in the Hollywood Hills, West Hollywood, Glendale, Pasadena and other parts of the San Gabriel Valley are especially impacted by the “intrusive, disruptive and often non-emergency” helicopter traffic above their neighborhoods.

Schiff attributed much of the noise to celebrity news media that follow stars on mundane errands throughout the area.

“The residents in these areas deserve peace and quiet, and if the FAA won’t act, Congress must pass this legislation to give residents the relief they need,” he said in a written statement.

The proposed bill is also intended to minimize commercial aircraft delays while exempting first responders and military aircrafts from the regulations.

Congressmen Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Brad Sherman, D-Calif., were also included in the bill.

“I hear complaints about helicopter noise from every part of the 33rd District—from Malibu to Brentwood to Benedict Canyon,” said Waxman.  “FAA regulation of the thunderous helicopter traffic over LA is long overdue.  And if the FAA won’t act, Congress must.” 

“The active participation of the FAA, community leaders and the helicopter industry can also help lead to substantial progress in developing solutions to better balance public safety and relief from excessive helicopter noise,” Sherman added.

Lawmakers hope the bill will go into effect within 12 months of being signed into law.

George L. February 05, 2013 at 12:44 AM
2 of 3: As I'm sure you know LA is not flat, especially the areas of the SFV, Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena. When flying into and out of Van Nuys helicopters are REQUIRED to fly no higher than 800ft MSL. That isn't above the ground, that is indicated altitude. This doesn't really present any problems when flying over the valley floor but could, and has, cause havoc near the foothills. This is just a simple example, but if a change was made to this ONE thing, by raising that altitude and making it a minimum instead of a maximum and/or making the minimum progressive as you near/depart the foothils, you might be able to eliminate 90% of general aviation helicopter noise. But a problem remains. A majority of the reported noise isn't from general aviation but from police, fire and government helicopter operations. If and only if the suggested change was to be adhered to by non-GA helicopter traffic would you be able to reduce or eliminate the problematic traffic noise.
George L. February 05, 2013 at 12:45 AM
3 of 3: The local private helicopter industry is made up of very hard working people that are scratching a living together. Please do not regulate away this source of income for YOUR constituents (I am one of them) when the regulations themselves will not solve the problem. The problem can be solved through COOPERATION, not REGULATION!
Donna Roberts February 05, 2013 at 12:55 AM
George, I'm sure you're a nice guy, but the "rights" of the privileged few to get somewhere fast and easy do NOT trump the rights of the millions of others who have to suffer from unnecessary and disruptive noise. I think we can all agree that nobody objects to emergency flights and those that are truly necessary to the benefit of the community. Most helicopter flights over inhabited areas do not fall into these categories.
George L. February 05, 2013 at 12:56 AM
David, glad to see you read all 3 of my posts... <sarcasm>
Donna Roberts February 05, 2013 at 01:09 AM
Just because you claim that a majority of the noise comes from police, fire and government helicopter operations does NOT mean that these are necessary, emergency flights.
Justin Boland February 05, 2013 at 03:06 PM
Depending on the purpose of the helicopter, there may be a better way. If the use of helicopters is for reconnaissance (police or fire operations) then unmanned vehicles can be much quieter, safer and cost efficient. A jurisdiction needs to acquire a certificate of operation to fly these, which is easy. Paparazzi cannot acquire a COA at this time. As for physical transport, I assume the public would be ok with most rescue helicopters situations. That leaves commercial physical transport, and perhaps more intelligent rules could help. I'm just glad that the problem is being recognized.
rebel mamma February 05, 2013 at 04:48 PM
I wish the sheriffs would discontinue their use of helicopters. I lived in Seattle for 18 years and they police their city just fine without helicopters. When I moved back to LA I had forgotten how horrible the police helicopters are.
B. Allen February 05, 2013 at 05:08 PM
I think our lawmakers should spend more tiem fighting crime.....and child molestation.....then noise problems! We live in a big city....get used to it!!!
Mattkaine February 05, 2013 at 07:09 PM
I don't think I could have stated it better than George L. Before pushing legislation it is important to understand what exactly you are legislating. Without a doubt the "Helicopter Noise" they are trying to eliminate are Government Helicopters which will not be affected by this legislation. Making it completely pointless. There will still be the same amount of "Helicopter Noise" The FAA and PHPA has been preaching voluntary noise abatement practices by GA Helicopter pilots for years and almost all pilots do their best to keep noise to a minimum. First we need research to find out who exactly is causing the noise, then make decisions from there. Most people just assume it is the News or Some rich CEO who doesn't care. When in fact it is usually Police, Sheriff and SAR, making the noise not GA Helicopters. Also by forcing routes you are increasing the noise levels and danger areas by congesting everyone into small areas. Personally I am much more bothered by neighborhood Lawn Service Noise than I am by helicopter noise.
Donna Roberts February 05, 2013 at 07:36 PM
At least with lawnmowers, only a small number of neighbors are affected and it's for an hour or so during daylight hours. I absolutely agree that government-agency helicopters - except for TRUE emergencies (which, I suspect are extremely few) - must also be regulated.
Mattkaine February 05, 2013 at 07:48 PM
Well in My nieghborhood, lawnmower noise is an Hour or more 5 days a week sometimes 6. Helicopter noise is 15mins tops 3 times a week. Regardless of "True emergency" or not, by federal law you can not pass legislation that interferes with the normal operations of emergency personnel.
Donna Roberts February 05, 2013 at 07:53 PM
@B. Allen: quality of life regulation IS important as well as crime prevention and punishment. We already have many noise pollution laws on the books, and for good reason. Just because we live in an urban area does not mean we have to tolerate any and all obnoxiousness that people have to mete out. @Mattkaine: please cite the relevant law. Even emergency personnel and their operations are regulated. That can't do any damn thing that they please at any time.
Mattkaine February 05, 2013 at 08:30 PM
Again I think we need to have a survey done to determine who is actually making the noise, then take steps to lessen the impact. So far every "Helicopter Noise" survey done nation wide has resulted in the same results regardless of city, GA Helicopters are not causing the noise. In fact in New York city who did pass similar legislation wound up causing more complaints after it went into affect than before, because the traffic was now focused and congested, instead of being spread out. The thing people need to realize is legislation is not going to stop Helicopters from flying, there are no routes to relocate the Helicopters to that will lessen the noise.
GG February 05, 2013 at 08:35 PM
Another attempt to "fix" a problem by lawmakers that have zero comprehension of the issues involved. Zev Yaroslavsky complained about a low flying helicopter over the Hollywood Bowl, only it turned out to be a US Army Blackhawk....a very loud helicopter, which would be exempt by any of this legislation. So take away from law abiding citizens that already fly with a stack of rules 3 inches thick, and exempt the larger louder helicopters that fly lower. We live in a city, we have not had a mid air involving a helicopter since the 1950's (KTLA vs.LAPD), you push helicopters up into fixed wing airspace and you will kill people on the ground and in those aircraft. We simply do not have that much airspace to fly around in. As is now, I have airplanes passing under my helicopter on a regular basis.
GG February 05, 2013 at 08:43 PM
The other issue of course, is that lawmakers have been pushing this legislation, and never ONCE even contacted the local helicopter operators group to get their input. Regardless of where you stand on an issue, you usually reach out to both sides before legislating a solution. PHPA has had to invite themselves to every event over the last two years all the way up till last October when the FAA held it's first open meeting for pilots.
Donna Roberts February 05, 2013 at 11:07 PM
Why does a blackhawk have to fly over the Hollywood Bowl? Please cite your source. Also, a big part of the problem DOES come from tourist flight operators and news crews. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/26/us/26choppers.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
George L. February 05, 2013 at 11:16 PM
The cited article is inflammatory. Why? Because Esteban Jimenez does NOT represent the LA Helicopter Community. He is the jackass that makes the rest of the operators in the greater LA area look bad. He is the exception, not the rule! Ever question why the NY Times chose the interview with him and nobody else? Probably because his interview is inflammatory and proves the point of the story, that operators don't care. Truth be told, they do, HE doesn't. His point of view, as seen below, is ridiculous. As a tour operator if I get calls, I make changes. That way one call doesn't turn into "calls all the time". Change the route, don't fly the same route every flight. That's called community relations, responding to requests from the community in a REASONABLE way, not ignoring them and going about your business thumbing your nose at the complaints. "See how we are flapping right now?” said Esteban Jimenez, a pilot for Hollywood Helicopter Tours, as his four-passenger Robinson R44 Raven II circled at an unnerving 90-degree angle, barely 100 feet over houses below. “That is upsetting everybody. We are at a safe enough distance. But it makes people really upset. I get calls all the time.”
GG February 05, 2013 at 11:20 PM
Here's my source on the Blackhawk issue. You would have to talk to the US Army about why the flight was made and the route that was chosen. Fact it though, the pending legislation would not have helped this situation. http://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/aviation-international-news/2012-09-02/beethoven-and-helos-loggerheads-la
GG February 05, 2013 at 11:23 PM
In case you don't want to read the whole story..."On August 2, LA county supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s enjoyment of Beethoven’s violin concerto played by Renaud Capuçon was ruined when a “large and loud” helicopter flew over the Hollywood Bowl at low altitude. “This was an outrage,” Yaroslavsky said at the public hearing. “I’m not into regulation. [But] this should not be allowed to happen.” The helicopter that flew over the Hollywood Bowl on August 2 was a Department of Homeland Security Black Hawk, sources told AIN. The Black Hawk was reportedly on a training flight. During the performance, the Black Hawk flew from the northwest, then curved over the audience at a low altitude, as low as 500 feet or even lower, then to the southeast. (Yaroslavsky did not respond when asked by AIN whether he had complained to Homeland Security.)"
GG February 05, 2013 at 11:29 PM
Citing that article is like interviewing a drunk driver and talking to him about his driving habits! I can go out and find a bad cop, which doesnt accurately reflect the cop community, or a bad doctor, etc, etc. In this case they found a less than neighborly pilot to write about. Too bad they didn't come talk to George, or me, or 100 other guys in the sky.
George L. February 05, 2013 at 11:33 PM
GG, they probably did but their interviews didn't make the point of the article, which was to highlight the noise problems of LA and how its becoming the new New York City (as far as noise goes).
Mattkaine February 06, 2013 at 12:53 AM
If I remember correctly from the FAA Safety seminar who used the above New York times article as an example of False Media Reporting and the need for voluntary noise abatement practices, Esteban Jimenez was fined and lost his Pilots license. Also the FAA is tracking nuisance noise reports and reviewing Radar Transponder Tracks to identify and fine pilots breaking the already established noise abatement areas. Outside of the fact that there are Helicopters in the skies of L.A. everything else about the article is simply just false propaganda.
GG February 06, 2013 at 01:02 AM
David- Just so you know, that particular pilot hasn't flown a tour since that article was written. Tour pilots are not the problem you seem to think they are. Most are a lot higher than other aircraft.
William Korn February 06, 2013 at 06:02 AM
Three thoughts... a) The Sheriiffs purchased a "quieter" helicopter to patrol Altadena a year or three ago, and it really is quieter when it's patrolling. (Not so much quieter when it's circling a specific location, though.) b) In my experience, the helicopters that make the most noise for the longest time are the news helicopters, which tend to stay in one place for quite a long time. I remember three news helicopters perched over West Altadena for over two hours. Why? There was some furry woodland creature in someone's back yard! c) I've witnessed Blackhawks buzzing the Hollywood Bowl. They were extremely loud. I thought that the local DHS Panjandrum just didn't like music.
GG February 06, 2013 at 07:10 AM
It was actually Pasadena PD that bought the new quieter helicopter...an MD500E, which is very quiet. Sheriffs still fly the AS350 Astar. Most news ships will go up to 1500 or 2000 feet above the scene to hover, most law enforcement flies at 300 feet above the scene during the day. Every area is different though, as there are airspace rules that might keep an aircraft lower. As far as the bears go, we had our share in La Crescenta over the last two years, I wish we could just learn to live with them better.
Fred Fonebonne February 07, 2013 at 12:18 AM
Here in Pasadena the problems are almost exclusively caused by police helicopters. They routinely fly a few hundred feet above ground, and often circle endlessly over routine traffic stops. The trouble is, the city has no policy guiding where and when the aircraft will respond to a call. As Police Chief Sanchez explained it, it is left to the pilots themselves to decide where to fly. That is not exactly the most reasonable policy, especially when it costs thousands of dollars an hour to keep the choppers in the air, dollars that might possibly be better spent on more patrols on the ground...you know, where the crime happens?
Donna Roberts February 07, 2013 at 12:41 AM
Exactly, Fred. It's ridiculous the mis-use of police helicopters for fairly routine matters, both in terms of resources/money and the unnecessary noise and commotion they cause for citizens.
George L. February 07, 2013 at 01:04 AM
And since it is a police helicopter, it will be exempt from the law that Representative Schiff is pushing in DC. If you want change at the local level, go to a city council meeting. Further, express your concerns about burning money at thousands of dollars an hour and how it can be better spent elsewhere. For the things I care about (or don't care about) I do it all the time in my city and every citizen, even the crazy ones, are given an opportunity to speak.
Ivan G February 07, 2013 at 01:07 AM
I live at the edge of the forest, so there are a lot of police helicopters for injured hikers, car wrecks and fires in addition to the more routine flights such as responding to robberies and burglaries. I am willing to tolerate the noise and the invasion of privacy.
Fred Fonebonne February 07, 2013 at 03:04 PM
George, I have attended several city council meetings. I am not the only one to bring this issue up. The city council refuses to even discuss the issue, which leads me to believe there is more than just noise going on here. Just how much is the city dependent on the Homeland Security money that partially paid for that new aircraft? Who's got a stake in it, and why is the whole program such a sacred cow?

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