FAA has yielded to pressure from Senator Chuck Schumer and Congressman Tim Bishop, and has agreed to provide some relief from helicopter taxi noise over Long Island.
The issue has been brewing for more than a decade. Some characterize the problem as wealthy bankers using noisy helicopters to zip back and forth between Manhattan and the Hamptons. The helicopters are noisy, and the helicopter pilots are routinely indifferent about their noise impacts upon neighbors below, believing all they need to do is comply with FAA’s rules. At the core of the problem, though, FAA ignores the noise caused by helicopters and effectively has no environmental restrictions for helicopters; throughout most of the country, helicopters only must remain clear of the clouds, and can fly at practically any altitude and over almost any location. Nearly eight million people live on Long Island, and the problem becomes particularly intense in the summer, when helicopter taxis increase for parties and vacations, and when residents open their house windows for ventilation.
So, after many years of legislative maneuvering as well as prodding FAA officials, Schumer and Bishop were able to get an off-shore helicopter route implemented that would keep the helicopter flights roughly a mile north of the Long Island north shore. This temporary fix was implemented in 2012. It has brought substantial relief, but was due to end in early August 2014. Now, the route (and the requirement to use this route) is extended for two more years. Schumer and Bishop hope to make it permanent; FAA and the helicopter industry hope Schumer and Bishop will eventually just retire.
One remaining problem is that the route concentrates the helicopters near the east end of the island, where they cross in the vicinity of Mattituck, NY. Schumer and Bishop continue to press FAA to bring relief to impacted residents, with a proposal to extend the off-shore route around Orient Point. In the long run, a better solution would be to squeeze out use of helicopters, because they have and always will have a very large noise impact, thus are very inappropriate for flight over places like Long Island. If FAA took ownership of this issue and chose to serve the larger Public, they would press for implementation of regularly scheduled fixed wing flights (perhaps hourly, and flying much higher, and with much quieter engines) that accommodate everyone, instead of noisy and self-indulgent personal helicopter taxi service. This can happen, but the leading impediment is the simple fact that FAA is a captured agency, providing cover while serving the industry first.
A few links…
- June 24, 2014 Article: Helicopter route extended by FAA; more relief still sought
- June 21, 2014: Article at LongIsland.com
- June 20, 2014: Press Release by Sen. Schumer & Rep. Bishop
- August 11, 2010 Article: ‘Copters Prove too Much to Bear’
- Website for local citizen group: EHhelicopterNoise.com