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Inaugural Helicopter Noise eNewsLetter
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December 2015
President's Message
In our inaugural eNewsLetter, two articles by LAAHNC Board members explain Why LA County Needs Helicopter Regulations and How To Complain and Stop Noisy Helicopters. In future articles, we will explain how specific types of helicopter operations impact different areas of Los Angeles County, and how your complaints are making a difference. And yes, you can and should complain. Please click the Submit Complaint button below to see how easy it is. In fact, people across LA County have logged more than 45,000 complaints from April through October. See below if your area is in the top five complaint ZIP codes. Use the Forward, Share, and Tweet links below to share this eNewsLetter with your friends and colleagues. Then, please click the Support Regulation button below to comment on the regulation petitions that LAAHNC has submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Thank you.
Bob Anderson, President, LAAHNC

Total Complaints

45,040 April thru October
Top Five Complaint ZIPs
90068  Cahuenga-Griffith
90005  Koreatown
90024  Westwood
91356  Tarzana
91423  Sherman Oaks
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Why LA County Needs Helicopter Regulations
Richard Root, Citizens for Quiet Helicopters
George Abrahams, Beachwood Canyon Neighborhood 
Association
In 2011, a New York Times journalist joined a Los Angeles helicopter tour flight and published a very eye-opening story that illustrates why we need to regulate helicopter flights. As the tour helicopter was flying barely 100 feet above the houses below, the pilot said “See how we are flapping right now? That is upsetting everybody. We are at a safe enough distance. But it makes people really upset. ... People don’t understand what’s really going on. … They really can’t do anything. I could buzz you as long as I keep my distance. We are legal.”
 
Except when subject to air traffic control near an airport, helicopter pilots generally have unregulated discretion to fly wherever they choose and as low as they choose. Unfortunately, flying helicopters very low over densely populated neighborhoods is all too common in the Los Angeles area, even though it’s contrary to the helicopter industry’s own guidelines. The Helicopter Association International Fly Neighborly Program “recommends” that pilots “avoid residential areas where possible”, “fly at as high an altitude as is safely possible”, and “fly as high an altitude as possible over scenic and recreational areas such as parks and beaches.” But, pilots don’t have to comply and too many of them don’t.
 
The only way to effectively control helicopter noise is to adopt regulations that make certain flight practices illegal. That’s why, in October 2015, LAAHNC filed four petitions with the FAA asking them to adopt mandatory Federal regulations for (1) minimum altitude, (2) hovering/orbiting, (3) media pooling, and (4) offshore routes. We need the public to support our petitions.


 Why LA County Needs Helicopter Regulations (continued)
Without question, Los Angeles County has the most concentrated and ubiquitous helicopter operations in the nation. Hundreds of helicopters are based here. Tour helicopters are found at multiple airports throughout the County, including Whiteman, Van Nuys, Compton, Hawthorne, Torrance, and Long Beach. These helicopters especially impact areas near scenic venues such as the Hollywood sign, celebrity homes, beaches, and coastal areas from Malibu to Long Beach. News media helicopters are primarily located at Van Nuys Airport and they impact residents in the San Fernando Valley, the Sepulveda Pass, and the Cahuenga Pass. They frequently hover and circle for long periods of time wherever they decide to cover a story.
 
And it’s not just tour and media helicopters. Test flights by Robinson Helicopter Company, based at Torrance Airport, number in the thousands every year and significantly impact residents in Torrance, adjacent South Bay beach cities, and the coastline of Palos Verdes Peninsula. The Los Angeles Police Department has 19 helicopters based in downtown Los Angeles, with at least two in the air, day and night, as part of their unique and atypical "patrol to reduce crime" mission. The LA County Sheriff has a large fleet of helicopters based at Long Beach Airport. The cities of Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena, Hawthorne, Long Beach, and El Monte also operate police helicopters.
 
The helicopter regulations we are proposing are very reasonable, and exempt police, fire, medical, and other emergency helicopters on active missions. For example, our proposed altitude regulation would require helicopter pilots to generally fly at least 2,000 feet above ground level. This is the same altitude that the FAA already recommends for noise abatement in their FAA Advisory Circular 91-36D. But, after years of negotiations, we could not get helicopter pilots in Los Angeles to agree to such a proposal, even as a voluntary best practice.

There is no justification for this resistance. An industry that has pledged to do the right thing has no reason to oppose rules that say it must do the right thing. The complexity of the Los Angeles airspace is even more reason for fixed rules. We cannot remain reliant on a temporary “halo effect” that lasts only as long as there is Congressional scrutiny on the problem. If helicopter noise gets pushed onto a back burner, the halo will slip, as it has in the past. We appreciate that there are people of good will among the helicopter pilots and operators, but we cannot expect that they will always be able to prevail upon their associates. As individuals in the helicopter industry change, institutional memory will be lost and prior abuses will return.
 
The helicopter industry will lobby hard to oppose any regulation. The published goal of the LA Area Helicopter Operators Association is to resist regulation. The Helicopter Association International, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, and National Business Aircraft Association spend thousands of dollars lobbying Congress and making campaign contributions. We know that they will use their clout to oppose any regulation.
 
However, there is hope that regulation is achievable. In 2012, there were sufficient complaints and comments from the public in New York to overcome helicopter industry opposition and convince the FAA to adopt regulations establishing the nation’s first mandatory helicopter route one mile offshore of Long Island. The Helicopter Association International actually sued the FAA, claiming it did not have the authority to regulate for noise impacts. But, their lawsuit failed. In 2013, the court ruling upheld the authority of the FAA to adopt regulations for the sole purpose of reducing the impact of aircraft noise on residential communities.
 
LAAHNC hopes that our petitions are sufficient to convince the FAA that regulations are necessary to reduce helicopter noise in the Los Angeles area too. But, this will take more than just our filing of petitions. It will also take a strong showing of public support. Public comments in support of our petitions are essential. So, if you have not already done so, please take a few minutes to make your own support known to the FAA. Go to our Mobilize webpage and see how easy it is to comment on our petitions. Also, please forward this information to others who may be impacted.
 
And this is just the tip of the iceberg on why we need regulation of helicopter flights in Los Angeles. In future newsletters, LAAHNC will discuss how specific types of helicopter operations impact different areas of Los Angeles County.
How To Complain and Stop Noisy Helicopters
Dave Garfinkle, Tarzana Property Owners Association and Tarzana Neighborhood Council
Roy Meals, HeliTracker Co-Developer

Noisy, low flying, hovering helicopters invade our living space on a continual basis. Do we need to put up with the tour helicopters hovering over Hollywood waiting to catch a glimpse of the star of the day or buzzing the Hollywood sign? Or three or four news helicopters hovering over a freeway incident for hours? Or helicopters routinely flying at 300 to 500 feet above the ground, rattling our windows and drowning out conversation? NO!! We need to report these events so that highly impacted areas can be identified and cowboy pilots put on notice. It's quick and easy to complain about noisy helicopters, especially with the new HeliTracker smartphone app,
and all complaints go to the FAA.


 How To Complain and Stop Noisy Helicopters (continued)
LAAHNC has had more than 60 meetings with pilot associations and the FAA, with essentially no success in getting them to reduce helicopter impacts on our lives. Given this lack of progress, we need to step up our tactics by flooding the FAA with complaints. You can stop helicopter noise if you report it and keep reporting it! There are many methods to report annoying helicopters. Calls to the local airport are sometimes effective, but take time. Other quicker and more effective methods have recently been developed. Call 424-348-4354 and follow the voice prompts, or go on line to heli-noise-la.com and complete the simple form. To identify specific egregious flights, go online at heli-noise-la.com/webtrak or to the WebTrak flight tracking system at your local airport (see our Using WebTrak for more information).

A simpler, more effective method for registering your complaints is the new HeliTracker mobile device app, developed by two local residents out of annoyance with frequent loud and low flying helicopters, and out of frustration from the lack of an efficient, quick way to lodge complaints. The HeliTracker app is available in both an Apple iOS version and an Android version for 99 cents (any profits go to TreePeople, a nonprofit organization). To report a disturbance, you simply open the app and HeliTracker automatically confirms your location, ZIP code, date, and time. If you want, the app will even remember your name and email address. With one tap, you indicate the type of disturbance (loud, low, hovering, …) and, with a second tap, send the complaint report. It takes only a few seconds. HeliTracker then automatically forwards all complaints to the FAA’s Automated Complaint System. The Complaint System Committee can then highlight helicopter impact hotspots and egregious pilot behavior, and attempt to modify helicopter operations.

But we can’t change helicopter impacts on our quality of life unless the public stands up and floods the system with complaints! Report incidents using these easy-to-use tools. More information about our efforts and how you can help are available on our LAAHNC website, where you can join our email list.

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