ANALYSIS: Three Decades of Aviation Noise Politics May be Bracing for Impact

The news this year has been abuzz with Aviation Noise articles, and it does not appear to be slowing down.

Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Judith LaBuda heard closing arguments in a Boulder, CO trial, where impacted residents are seeking relief from the noise of Mile-Hi Skydiving Center, operating out of Longmont’s Vance Brand Airport [KLMO].

On the East Coast and the West Coast (in East Hampton, NY, and in Santa Monica, CA), citizens have ‘Just Said No’ to FAA grants for decades to get out from under ‘grant obligations’ and try to regain local control of their airports. They are now working diligently to finish their trek, to ensure local officials will not cave to late pressures from FAA and the industry. For once, they hope to see their local officials act to manage aviation noise and preserve ‘quality of life’. At East Hampton [KHTO], residents want relief from noisy commuter helicopters. At Santa Monica [KSMO], the biggest noise offender is also commercial, in the form of charter jets using a too-short runway, and also spraying soot and jet blast onto neighboring homes.

And, of course, there are the ongoing (and growing!) NextGen debacles impacting hundreds of thousands of sleep-deprived residents. Phoenix, Chicago, and New York have generated lots of big stories; Charlotte, Minneapolis, Seattle, Boston, Palo Alto, … the list will grow on. At each impacted community, millions of taxpayer dollars are used by FAA to attractively (and fraudulently) ‘green-wrap’ the debacle, and always stated as ‘in collaboration with industry stakeholders’. And, in case you missed it, FAA even wished everyone a Happy Earth Day!

Lots of news, but very little progress. Such is the politics of FAA and aviation noise.

Censorship in Colorado

As an example of how intensely political aviation noise is becoming, a conservative-leaning paper in Longmont recently censored out a reader comment. The paper, TimesCall.com, has generally been doing an excellent job of covering the citizens’ lawsuit against aviation operator Mile-Hi Skydiving. And their articles provide a ripe forum for people to express their views. As has come to be the standard in today’s online forums, the views are hugely polarized and sometimes downright rude and uncivil.

So, here’s a short overview of what happened at TimesCall.com. A person using the tag ‘JustSayinEP’ (Estes Park?) had made a comment which was promptly deleted by the website administrator. But, before the deletion, another person using the tag ‘Querty123’ responded, questioning if ‘JustSayinEP’ was threatening to use a rocket launcher to shoot down the main offending Mile-Hi Skydiving airplane, the loud white/purple Twin Otter. ‘JustSayinEP’ then promptly replied, and within his reply noted the content TimesCall.com had censored. To their credit, TimesCall.com did not censor this follow-up. Thus, we are all able to plausibly reconstruct their justification for the censorship. Here’s a screen-capture showing the comment thread (orange-box added by aiReform.com):

(click on image to read original article and reader comments at TimesCall.com)

(click on image to read original article and reader comments at TimesCall.com)

The censored comment included lyrics from Bruce Cockburn’s 1984 song about oppression in Guatemala, ‘If I had a Rocket Launcher’. The opening stanza of the song lyrics includes, “Here comes the helicopter, second time today, everybody scatters and hopes it goes away, how many kids they’ve murdered only God can say….” The second stanza includes, “I don’t believe in guarded borders and I don’t believe in hate, I don’t believe in generals or their stinking torture states….” See the full lyrics here; the song is short and simple, and the lyrics webpage has lots more information about how the song came to be written.

Here are two embedded YouTube videos. Take your pick (or, better, listen to both). The first is the video at the link posted by ‘JustSayinEP’, which has video images showing the human face in Guatemala; the second video is an acoustic version, on a stage in Canada, that many find more artistically impressive:

Both videos present a great song. This song is NOT intended to stir up violence. It is clearly intended to stir up PEOPLE, to get us to CARE ENOUGH to take non-violent action, to right an obvious wrong. As Bruce Cockburn explained about his new song, in a late 1984 interview, “this is not a call to arms. This is, this is a cry….”

A cry. In 1984, and again in 2015.

Which is why it seems surprising that TimesCall.com would see fit to censor it.

The Politics Go Back to Ronald Reagan

The deeper story gets into politics, and reveals some of the oppressive dark-side of aviation. Mr. Cockburn wrote this song more than thirty years ago, early in the Reagan Administration. Two of the biggest presidential moves on aviation were done by President Reagan in 1981. In August, he fired most of the FAA air traffic controllers, for their strike, an action that still resonates with labor today. Earlier in the year he had persuaded Congress to support his proposal to shut down the Office of Noise Abatement and Control (ONAC) at EPA, an action hugely relevant to the NextGen implementation debacles.

That was Reagan’s first year, 1981. In early 1982, in Central America, General José Efraín Ríos Montt staged a military coup and became President of Guatemala. He had distant support from a few other nations, including the Reagan administration, and he used aviation as perhaps his most powerful tool of oppression. Bruce Cockburn visited the Guatemalan refuge camps in the Mexican state of Chiapas, during the Montt dictatorship. He saw the way helicopters routinely ignored national borders to fly menacingly over and sometimes fire into refugee camps. An avowed pacifist, he was outraged by the inhumane oppression he saw, so he wrote this song. And, thankfully for the Guatemalan people, the presidency of General Montt was short-lived; it ended in August 1983.

Mr. Cockburn’s song does a fantastic job of illustrating the simple fact that people who are oppressed need relief from their oppression. No matter how peaceful people are, if a state of oppression is sustained, it is only right to stand firm and resist. The individual standing against oppression was once at the heart of our national identity. If the oppressor denies the oppressed effective recourse, in due time some may feel compelled toward violent action to retake their freedom. We took up arms against the British, and that crystallized our national identity. We all want to avoid violence, which is why we want to believe we have an open press and deliberative Courts, the essential nonviolent venues for maintaining civility. But history has shown, if the press and the Courts fail, peace too will soon fail. Thus, we MUST have a strong press and reliable Courts, openly covering the NextGen noise debacles, and justly deciding cases like the one in Boulder.

In the big picture, if we truly want a happy and peaceful world, we have to start with preserving basic quality of life, which includes vigorously guarding against oppression.

Noise is oppression.

Noise is oppression. Not as horrific and potentially lethal as an armed helicopter, but still oppressive. And bureaucratic inaction, as FAA consistently shows, doesn’t just frustrate the noise-oppressed; it also scuttles their chance for relief from other venues, such as when Courts reflexively defer to FAA, ON THE ASSUMPTION THAT FAA IS DOING ITS LEGISLATED DUTY. Which, by the way, FAA is NOT.

For reasons unknown, FAA has completely abandoned their federal responsibility to manage aviation noise. Some would conclude it is easily explained, if you simply understand that FAA today is a captured regulatory agency, existing solely to serve the industry.

In essence, the only difference between an aviation lobbyist and an FAA official in Washington is that the latter is still making small contributions into their federal retirement pension. So, as it stands today, if the airlines want political cover to add a few more million in annual profits by making early turns to climb out over Phoenix and Flushing, FAA provides that cover. Complaining citizens are just beaten down and ignored.

Today’s Noise Politics: On a Collision Course?

Today, NextGen noise is Oppression, and FAA is the intransigent Oppressor. Near NextGen airports, where new procedures are being implemented without needed environmental reviews and citizen input, ‘We the People’ are now ‘We the Oppressed’.

The current situation has become so untenable that in New York, U.S. Representative Grace Meng is advocating for a different agency to take over where FAA is failing. She wants to mend some of the errors of 1981, by resuming funding for the Office of Noise Abatement and Control (ONAC). And she wants EPA to run it, because, as she says, “(FAA) has failed to convince me and the public that it can objectively handle the problems caused by noise pollution. The EPA is better suited to study the consequences of noise pollution and propose measures to ameliorate this ongoing problem….” The proposal is presented in Congresswoman Meng’s 4/30/2015 letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

Her concerns are echoed in Arizona Senator John McCain’s 4/30/2015 letter to Administrator Huerta, seeking resolution of the Phoenix NextGen debacle.

Big Week in Santa Monica

Lots is happening in the next few days. A meeting of the Santa Monica Airport Commission (SMAC) on Monday, then a public Rally and a session of the Santa Monica City Council on Tuesday.20150322.. [KSMO] busy week calendar 1-2-3

A copy of the 36-page Staff Report is viewable in the scrollable window below. Check back to this Post, as links for other resources will be added.


Links:
  • City Council HomepageThe Santa Monica City Council regularly meets at 5:30 p.m. on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of every month in Council Chambers, located at City Hall, 1685 Main Street, Santa Monica. The City Council may hold additional special meetings, as needed.
  • July 1, 2015: Measure LC beginslatest Post by Airport2Park, a local nonprofit formed to support and promote the creation of a great park on the land that is currently Santa Monica Airport.
  • Martin Rubin’s Statement to the Santa Monica City CouncilDelivered on 3/23/2015, in preparation for the scheduled 3/24/2015 City Council meeting. Includes numerous links to supporting documents.

What Can FAA & NTSB do to Reduce HEMS Accidents?

In the past week, we have had two fatal crashes of helicopters providing ’emergency medical services’. Historical data shows that many of these ‘HEMS’ fatal accidents happen at nighttime, when flying in poor weather, especially in dark (moonless) conditions.

20150312.. HEMS crash, west of Eufaula Lake, mapSuch was the case with this latest accident, on March 12th. A pilot and two crewmembers were flying from Tulsa back to their EagleMed base at McAlester, Oklahoma [KMLC]. The flight ended up crashed in terrain to the west of Eufaula Lake (green box area), minutes prior to their planned arrival at McAlester.

On this particular night, in the area around McAlester, the moon (which was waning and illuminated at 63%) rose at 1:03AM, nearly two hours after the accident. Thus, it was a dark night.

Also on this night, the weather was deteriorating. When weather is poor, helicopter pilots choose to fly at lower altitudes, to stay below the bottom cloud layer. In sufficiently dark night conditions and at low altitudes, even a seasoned pilot may not see a tall tree, an antenna tower, or a mountain until the last second, if at all. Such conditions make helicopter transport far more risky than ground transport.

In the HEMS industry, company owners rake in huge profits if they can get their crews to be the first medical transport at the scene of an accident. But, they also earn large fees (exceeding $10,000)contracting with hospitals to fly patients from point A to point B. The problem is, the profit motive is so intense that many pilots have found it difficult to say ‘no’, even in the worst flying conditions. And, this problem is amplified by FAA’s rules for helicopter flying, which allow pilots to fly at any level – right down to the surface – to dodge declining weather. In many of the resulting accidents, the helicopter proceeded in declining visibility, to lower and lower altitudes, then impacted guy lines that support antenna towers.

And then there is the media coverage. When these HEMS accidents happen, the news coverage tends to focus superficially on the physical tragedy, while failing to investigate a key question: was there a real benefit, and was it necessary, to use a helicopter for the specific incident? The media tends to not ask these questions and, instead, waits for FAA and/or NTSB to comment about the risks involved. The problem, though, is that both agencies are pressured to stay quiet, so as not to undermine the profit potential of the HEMS industry.

Also, the media tends to paint the crash victims as heroic in their service. We are led to believe that others would have died if the HEMS crew had not selflessly risked life and limb to respond. In truth, though, accident histories have shown time and again that most nighttime HEMS accidents would have been avoided – and patients would have been just fine, too – if pilots had simply accepted the real risks and elected to wait for conditions to improve.

FAA is very much to blame for the fact these HEMS accidents continue to kill so many in the United States. FAA has the authority to regulate this industry, but chooses not to. For decades, the pattern has been to delay tighter rules and keep the safety rules fuzzy and ambiguous. Chronically, FAA does their best to not interfere with this or any aviation industry.

In this latest fatal HEMS accident, it is again tragic that a pilot was lost, that two others were injured, and that families and friends have been made to suffer. But, if we are to move beyond repeats of these accidents, we need real and timely information. If there is evidence suggesting decisions were made that were too risky, that evidence needs to be revealed to the Public ASAP.

It would be helpful if the FAA and NTSB became more assertive in sharing information about these HEMS accidents. Perhaps, within 48-hours of each accident, they should post the preliminary information that helps the news media (and readers) to assess answers to the following questions:

  • What was the purpose of the flight? I.e., was it for routine transfer of a stable patient, or was it an accident response?
  • What was the specific urgency that necessitated use of a helicopter instead of ground transportation? Or, was there no benefit to a patient?
  • Was weather possibly a factor (i.e., what were the nearest reported weather conditions)?
  • Was darkness possibly a factor (i.e., what were the known conditions)?

See also:

ANALYSIS: The ‘Mogas’ Study at KHIO, by KB Environmental Sciences

This Post offers an analysis of a 59-page study funded by the Port of Portland, to investigate the potential and feasibility to sell unleaded aviation fuel at the Hillsboro Airport [KHIO]. It includes some background on the leaded fuel issue, followed by a look at (and critique of) the KB ‘Mogas’ Study.

Background

The Clean Air Act was passed in 1970, and included guidance for the removal of toxic lead from transportation fuels. It took more than two decades for EPA to completely phase out lead in automotive fuel, as was accomplished in 1996. But, although there are far fewer aircraft and fueling locations (and thus the change for aviation should have been faster and easier to accomplish), it has now been 45-years, yet lead remains in the most commonly used General Aviation (GA) fuel: 100LL, commonly called Avgas.

Many aircraft have been modified to safely use unleaded fuel, commonly called Mogas. The problem, though, is that while mogas is widely available from wholesalers, very few airports have invested in the above-ground storage tanks and/or fuel trucks needed to offer this less hazardous fuel choice. Thus, even busy GA airports do not offer mogas. Such is the case today at the Hillsboro Airport [KHIO], west of Portland, OR.

20150204scp.. PoP Aternatives to Lead in Aviation Fuel [KHIO]For the past few years, lead has been a focused issue at the Hillsboro Airport. The airport is owned/operated by the Port of Portland (PoP). It is common throughout the U.S. for airport authorities to appoint citizen groups, which ostensibly assures the community is involved in airport impact decisions. In reality, though, PoP and other airport authorities tend to stack the membership of these groups so as to assure they vote favorably for the airport uses (and against the airport neighbors). At Hillsboro, PoP created the Hillsboro Airport Roundtable Exchange (HARE). Many airport neighbors feel that HARE is strongly aligned with the aviation interests at KHIO, particularly Hillsboro Aviation.

The KB ‘Mogas’ Study’s Summary:

At some point in the recent past, the Port of Portland hired a consultant to prepare a study related to the KHIO avgas/mogas issue. They hired KB Environmental Sciences, based in Tampa Bay, FL (and with offices in Washington, DC and Seattle) to do a study. KB is one of a handful of companies who make lots of money doing studies that are use by the aviation status quo to sustain practices and delay change. KB’s 59-page report was completed last December, and just recently made public. Here is the bullet list from the Executive Summary page:

…to read the study summary and the aiREFORM analysis,
please see page two of this Post…

ANALYSIS: 2014-12-29.. Helicopter Flight Training Accident at Lantana, FL

20141229.. KLNA aerial pic showing crash site vicinityA 34-year-old flight instructor was killed and his 25-year-old male student went to the hospital with serious injuries after a helicopter crash just outside the airport property.

At approximately 10:25AM, witnesses heard a sputtering engine on one of three helicopters flying near the Palm Beach County Park Airport [KLNA]. The helicopter, operated by Palm Beach Helicopters, then crashed on John Prince Park property, just north of the airport. The actual crash location was in the grassy area, north of the creek and west of the long, white-roofed shed building (part of the park’s maintenance facilities).

Helicopter engines can fail. When they do, pilots are trained to respond by doing an autorotation landing. With sufficient altitude and forward speed, the helicopter can be brought to a relatively normal landing. If the engine failure occurs at lower altitudes, however, the result will be a hard landing or even a destructive crash.

An online search for helicopter flight instruction at the Lantana airport lists numerous operators, including PalmBeachHelicopters.com and LantanaHelicopters.com. KLNA sits on more than 300-acres and is a busy uncontrolled (no tower) airport. A full 75% of the 347 average daily takeoffs and landings per day are local flights that remain within the airport pattern.

Many Florida airports offer intensive flight training programs, drawing students from across the nation and even from others parts of the world. Those programs focused on helicopter training create especially substantial noise and air pollution for airport neighbors. Typically, the flight instructors are minimally paid but building hours of experience required for future aviation jobs. Many of the students receive government subsidies, some related to past military service.


See also:

“Unfit for Flight” news investigation wins the NPF ‘Feddie’ Award

National Press Foundation recognized Thomas Frank for his USA Today investigative series about aviation fatalities and regulatory capture.

A non-profit foundation, NPF cited Mr. Frank for his “extraordinary investigation” in his series, ‘Unfit for Flight’, which appeared in June. He was given the ‘Feddie’ award, recognizing that his writing helps to show how federal policy affects local government. Judges were also impressed with how the presentation of the  news series “…effectively uses the techniques of digital journalism: video, animation and responsive design. This is modern journalism at its best.”

The series revealed how design defects have been allowed to persist in private airplanes and helicopters for decades, often because of cover-ups by manufacturers. The stories also showed how National Transportation Safety Board crash investigations often overlook the causes of aircraft crashes and deaths, and how the Federal Aviation Administration allows brand-new aircraft to be manufactured under safety regulations that are decades old, thus perpetuating known design flaws.

Santa Monica: LA Times Weighs In After Passage of Measure LC

20141109.. KSMO LA Times Editorital, headline screencap

(click on image to view the LA Times Op/Ed piece)

Four days after local voters decisively supported their local officials to move toward more control of their airport, the Los Angeles Times editors opined in their Sunday edition. Their view was notably slanted, going even so far as to misrepresent that the airport “…plays a vital role in the region’s transportation system…” Their words help to perpetuate the myth that, even more than diamonds, ‘Airports are Forever’.

This is all bull.

The real impediment is FAA. If this one federal agency would focus on serving the whole Public (and not just aviation interests), a scaled-down airport serving only small single-propeller airplanes — and with no local training/practice pattern flying — would be a quick no-brainer. FAA Administrator Huerta needs to be a true leader and put forward this proposal. Then, if the local residents go further and articulate a convincing reason to outright close [KSMO], Mr. Huerta should seriously entertain that possibility, too.

Despite the slanted opinion of the Times Editorial Board, jets at KSMO are a very real hazard. That case was very well laid out by Joseph Schmitz (see SlideShare below).


Another document to consider is the February 2010 impact study by Pew Trust.

(click on image to view or download entire report, 21-page PDF.)

(click on image to view or download entire report, 21-page PDF)

At the time of this aiREFORM Post, there were 31 reader comments to the LA Times Editorial; they are well worth reading, and mostly by concerned airport neighbors, plus one airport-defender.

Clearly, there are many people around this small airport who have become quite well informed about the facts and are seeing past the spin and propaganda. They see the simple reality: that FAA is a captured agency, serving industry and money while broadly looking past many safety and health concerns.

Midair Collision Between a Cirrus and a Helicopter, at the controlled airport in Frederick, MD

(click on the image to view the WJLA news video)

Helicopter crash debris at a storage facility. (click on the image to view the WJLA news video)

Three died when a midair collision happened between a fixed-wing arrival and a helicopter, in the traffic pattern at the controlled airport in Frederick, Maryland [KFDK]. The fixed-wing aircraft was a Cirrus; it had departed in the morning and was just finishing a three-hour flight, returning from Cleveland, TN.

At the time, three helicopters were training in a lower flight pattern, underneath the fixed-wing arrival traffic pattern. The helicopters apparently are part of a training program at Advanced Helicopter Concepts, and are based near the south end of the airport. One of them, a Robinson R44 helicopter, collided with the Cirrus. Just seconds before, the controller had reported the Cirrus in sight and told him to maintain his altitude, with the apparent intent being to keep the Cirrus a few hundred feet above the helicopters. It appears that the Cirrus was just establishing midfield on the left downwind leg to Runway 30, while the helicopter was midfield downwind for a grass practice area, when the collision occurred.

Here is a copy of the satellite image for KFDK. The collision happened near the added orange circle, as the two aircraft crashed at the left red square (helicopter) and right red square (Cirrus). The Cirrus was on a left downwind, setting up to land on Runway 30 (the shorter runway, from the right edge to the top-middle of this aerial). 20141023.. KFDK airport sat view, marking 2 crash locationsA closer look shows the helicopter crash location at the storage lot (small red circle) and the Cirrus crash location in trees just southeast of the large building (larger yellow circle).20141023.. KFDK sat view, marking two debris locations
Weather was likely not a factor. As indicated by the METAR data copied below, clouds were high (above 4,000-feet all day), visibility was always at least ten miles, and the temperature and dew point was always comfortable. The most notable weather detail were relatively strong — but also fairly steady — winds out of the north-northwest.

Time temp dew wind speed vis. clouds alti.
23 Oct 11:48 am EDT 63 43 NNW 20G25 10.00 BKN040 29.94
23 Oct 12:45 pm EDT 64 45 NNW 13G29 10.00 BKN040 29.92
23 Oct 1:45 pm EDT 66 45 10.00 BKN042 29.91
23 Oct 2:45 pm EDT 66 45 N 17G23 10.00 BKN044 29.90
23 Oct 3:37 pm EDT Accident
23 Oct 3:53 pm EDT 66 45 NNW 18G24 10.00 SCT048 29.91
23 Oct 5:45 pm EDT 70 43 NNW 8 10.00 BKN060 29.89
23 Oct 7:45 pm EDT 68 39 NNW 10 10.00 OVC060 29.92

As is clear from the ATC archive at LiveATC.net, this accident happened while the tower controller was using Runway 30. [CAUTION: this archived ATC recording includes screams just after the impact.] [Transcript copy (by aiREFORM)] Based on ATC transmissions, the flights were likely 700- to 1,000-feet above the ground when they collided. The Cirrus’ parachute system deployed, and almost certainly saved the lives of the two on that aircraft.

One thing not yet clear is how ATC at Frederick manages their flight patterns for helicopter training. The flight patterns for helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft can conflict dangerously. So, the management at each air traffic control tower has to sit down with airport operators and devise workable plans, to help ‘de-conflict’ the traffic flows. These traffic flow plans are then made official (and signed by the parties, such as the helicopter training company) as letters of agreement or memoranda of understanding. At airports with helicopter training programs, the best strategy is to keep the helicopters flying in one area, and keep all the fixed-wing airplanes away. But, more commonly, there is a need to stuff the helicopter training pattern in underneath the fixed-wing pattern. In any case, the controllers need to be especially vigilant to protect those higher risk areas where the different patterns cross.

Here are some links:

 

FAA’s Regulatory Excess & Delays are Hampering the U.S. Drone Industry

A few years ago, FAA grabbed control of the U.S. drone industry, primarily as a project to apply excess employee resources. FAA has since banned most drone uses in the U.S., and the nascent industry is foundering while FAA falls behind in the development of industry rules. U.S. operators have been driven underground; their ability to locate funding or procure insurance is impacted, and potential customers are deterred by FAA’s daunting (though arbitrary) rules.

Meanwhile, a commercial-drone boom is happening outside the U.S., where national policies are much more accommodating. Take Germany, for example. One of the largest players is Service-drone.de GmbH, in Berlin. The company has sold more than 400 drone systems and has more than twenty employees. Their website offers some excellent examples of efficient drone applications such as photogrammetric mapping and powerline construction and maintenance. Here are two embedded videos showing use of an octocopter:

Here is a short excerpt, from the start of Jack Nicas’ Wall Street Journal article:

In four years, Service-drone.de GmbH has emerged as a promising player here in the rapidly expanding commercial-drone industry. The 20-employee startup has sold more than 400 unmanned aircraft to private-sector companies and currently is pitching its fourth-generation device.
Over the same period, Seattle-based Applewhite Aero has struggled to get permission from the Federal Aviation Administration just to fly its drones, which are designed for crop monitoring. The company, founded the same year as Service-drone, has test-flown only one of its four aircraft, and is now moving some operations to Canada, where getting flight clearance is easier.
“We had to petition the FAA to not carry the aircraft manual onboard,” said Applewhite founder Paul Applewhite. “I mean, who’s supposed to read it?” Mr. Applewhite, like many of his U.S. peers, fears the drone industry “is moving past the U.S., and we’re just getting left behind.”

As presented in the article, FAA says its drone policy “… reflects concern for the safety of people in the air and on the ground. It rejected any comparison to foreign regulators, saying the U.S. has far more low-flying private planes that are at most risk from drones….”

This is ridiculous. If FAA really cared about safety, they would be accelerating deployment of drones to eliminate unsafe helicopter uses, such as pipeline surveys. Plus, the altitudes needed for drones are safely underneath the altitudes used by regular aircraft. Frankly, the only possible traffic for these drones would be low-flying helicopters, which are flying unsafely if they are in fact cruising within a few hundred feet of the ground. FAA could regulate these helicopters — and needs to, which would also reduce noise impacts (e.g., see the helicopter problems on Long Island, NY or near Palos Verdes, CA).

So, in the larger analysis, FAA is continuing to refuse to properly regulate helicopters, and FAA is impeding drone development, all of which sustains the status quo for aviation today in the U.S.

As one drone retailer in Liberty, TX said: “It’ll reach a point of no return where American companies won’t ever be able to catch up. The U.S. is definitely falling behind.”

A Job Done Better by Drones

Yet another helicopter accident pointing out how some aviation jobs would be better handled using drone technologies. This time, a Bell 206 helicopter lost power and crashed while on a pipeline survey. Nobody was killed, but one of the three on board was seriously injured near Woodsboro, TX, on October 2nd. 20141001.. B206 crash pic, Woodsboro TX

These flights are typically done at low altitudes, and with slower speeds as needed to more closely study potential pipeline issues. At these altitude/speed combinations, an engine failure cannot be recovered into a safe landing. In many cases, the crash initiates a fire, and numerous casualties.

The benefits of doing this work with drones are many, including:

  • fewer lives would be placed at risk
  • far less fuel would be consumed
  • far less noise would be generated

Is it time for FAA to quit impeding the use of drones for applications such as this?