Relief From Helicopter Noise: It Can be Done!

As we spool up to endure the next General Election, some campaigns may seek to control the impacts from aviation at the events they stage. They may want to eliminate or reduce noise (don’t we all!!); they may want to prevent the media from presenting an uncontrollable perspective; and, they may cover these self-serving goals by claiming a need for heightened security. We will see over and over again that FAA will bow to these campaign requests. At the same time, regular folks with deep investment in their homes and communities will get ZERO RELIEF from aviation noise that FAA is hell-bent on promoting. The forecast for cleaning up any of the NextGen debacles: No chance, not under Michael Huerta’s FAA. And, FAA will continue to obstruct all efforts to regain local control: at Santa Monica, East Hampton, Charlotte, Phoenix and everywhere else.

20150613.. TFR Roosevelt Park ref Clinton campaign event

Graphic by FAA, showing the TFR that closed airspace below 2,000 feet, for 3.5 hours, on June 13.

The loudest impacts come from helicopters. Helicopters generate lots of irritating noise, which is made even more annoying because it happens while producing little or no real benefit. Whether it is a nosy media helicopter beating air over your backyard, a spendy ‘air-taxi’ zipping CEOs from Manhattan to East Hampton, a Grand Canyon air tour chopper with just four tourists aboard, or a federally-funded local police copter flying around to justify future federal funds — in all cases, the cost of the noise on many far exceeds the minimal real benefits to a tiny few.

The Clinton campaign recently helped expose what most of us have known for a long time: if FAA wants to, they can easily alter airspace parameters to alleviate noise and other concerns. A reporter, Spencer Woodman, covered this in an article at The Intercept, published by First Look Media. The article, On Disputed No-Fly Zone, Clinton Campaign Got Its Way With the FAA, includes a 4-page response from FAA to a FOIA request seeking to document the process that produced the Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR).

The one good thing from the coming campaign-related TFRs is they will prove, time and again, FAA CAN impose airspace restrictions that bring relief from aviation noise. Maybe, just maybe, some of these candidates will start using their misplaced clout to serve the people, and help us get FAA to properly regulate the environmental impacts of aviation.

As a side note, this particular FOIA production reveals an FAA that is incredibly protective of the identities of employees doing official business. Incredibly, FAA claims that to show the employee’s identities would violate their personal privacy. And, despite FAA’s excessive redactions, the document also shows a very bloated agency, in terms of how many people got dragged into the email chain. Reform, anyone?