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  • Nimbywatch

    Residents’ victory over chopper site costs cafe

    A NOOSA Junction business owner has highlighted the domino effect of closing Teewah Beach to helicopter training flights.

    Grant Doran, who owns Shades Cafe and Wine Bar, aired his fears after a nearby English academy complained of a loss of business due to the flight training closure.

    Mr Doran's business serves "about 25 drinks" daily to students and staff at the Lexis English academy, which in turn generates around $1 million of its annual $18 million income from Becker Helicopters' international students.

    "I'd like to see a little more investigation into the impact on the greater business community and socially," Mr Doran said of the decision to close the strip, just two days after the new council was sworn in.

    "The school brings a lot of students into Noosa. We get five or six intakes a year, and that's continued right through the quiet season, which is good as it gives us a great base.

    "It's almost 10% of the revenue contribution to the business. When you work on small margins, that's a significant contribution.

    "The income generated by the students for the economy is quite significant."

    A Noosa Council spokesman said "there are no proposals to revisit that decision" to close the airstrip.

    "The Teewah area was being used for helicopter landings without any approvals in place," the spokesman said.

    "The site is zoned Open Space Conservation. Use of the site for commercial helicopter training is in conflict with that zoning.

    "At no time had any helicopter company made an application for use of the site for commercial purposes.

    "The closure at Teewah was for any helicopters landing at site - other than for emergency purposes - regardless of which company.

  • #2
    Plans for helicopter pad near homes stirs controversy

    ST. DAVID - A new hub for medical emergency helicopters is taking shape in Cochise County. However, its placement in a rural residential area has stirred some controversy.

    A partnership between two ambulance services, LifeLine and Healthcare Innovations, is making way for a new helipad just outside St. David. The plan will also bring a helicopter, a hangar and fueling station as well as living quarter for the crew.

    Steve Delgado lives in a home just a few hundred steps away from the planned helipad. Construction on the infrastructure has already begun. "My family and I aren't completely happy about a helicopter... 60 yards away from our house. I don't know who would," Delgado told News 4 Tucson.

    Jim Broome, the President of Healthcare Innovations, said this plan has been in the works for nearly 10 years. This site, he said, was their best option.

    "It's in a rather remote farm field environment where you're not disturbing anybody... It's kind of an ideal location," Broome said, adding that it will bring a life-saving helicopter to roughly 20,000 people.

    Delgado is a pilot himself - so the irony of his situation isn't lost.

    "I'm not trying to say that they shouldn't be anywhere here. They have a right to do what they've got to do."

    Still, with Delgado's family living so close - he has his worries.

    "Helicopter nearby... they're going to put a tank in for fuel... I got a well there.... These are just valid concerns that anybody would have," he said.

    The first flights for the EMS helicopters are expected to begin in a little over a month. Broome said that the flight path does not go over any homes.

    Healthcare Innovations and LifeLine will host a meet and greet for the community Saturday Feb. 15 from 8 a.m. - 11 a.m. at the site to answer any questions or concerns. It's located at 675 E. 1st Avenue.


    • #3
      LA Noise Law Will Not Exempt Public Helicopters

      by Mark Huber

      March 1, 2014

      The long-simmering debate about how best to address the issue of helicopter noise above the Los Angeles basin has come to full boil. The parties that had been trying to collaborate on voluntary abatement measures have seen them become mired in a miasma of mistrust, skepticism, anger and a sense of betrayal on the part of just about everyone who flies a helicopter through the airspace, including–for the first time–law enforcement.

      It now appears that the efforts of all parties involved–the Airborne Law Enforcement Association (ALEA), the Professional Helicopter Pilots Association (PHPA), an amalgamation of homeowner associations that form the Los Angeles Area Helicopter Noise Coalition (LAAHNC) and the FAA, through its L.A. Helicopter Noise Initiative–to find a workable solution that does not compromise air safety might be swept aside by congressional fiat. The political blueprint appears to be a side deal cut between former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to establish the now mandatory North Shore Route for helicopters over New York’s Long Island.

      Increasingly, it looks as if that model will be applied in Los Angeles. U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) successfully inserted into the omnibus $1.1 trillion federal funding bill language that compels the FAA to develop mandatory noise-mitigation rules and routes for helicopters operating in the Los Angeles area within one year if voluntary measures do not reduce noise complaints. It does not spell out an acceptable level of complaint or any objective means of measurement. Standalone legislation on the issue introduced by Schiff and other members of California’s congressional delegation had failed to clear committees in previous congressional sessions.

      The FAA started bringing stakeholders together on the issue in 2012 through its Los Angeles Helicopter Noise Initiative and related subcommittees, after seven members of California’s congressional delegation complained to LaHood, then the Secretary of Transportation. The FAA issued a preliminary report on the situation last May noting the complexities that the area’s airspace congestion brings to the task.

      “No single remedy can be implemented on a large scale throughout the Los Angeles Basin,” the agency wrote in the report. “The airspace over Southern California is among the most congested and complex in the world. For safety reasons, helicopter traffic must be separated by altitude from higher-performing and faster-moving fixed-wing aircraft. The density of land use in the area, as well as the complexity and diversity of airspace users, presents challenges to identifying optimal helicopter routes that are safe, efficient and serve noise-abatement purposes.”

      Schiff characterizes the progress made so far through voluntary measures as “inadequate.” Solutions being considered by initiative participants included adopting an automated noise complaint reporting and mapping system, higher helicopter altitudes, noise-abatement routes and mandatory exclusion areas in “hot spots” such as Griffith Park, the Getty Center, the iconic Hollywood sign and the Hollywood Bowl outdoor concert arena.

      Schiff’s office declined to make him available to AIN for comment. However, in a prepared statement released after the omnibus bill passed in January, Schiff said, “After years of pushing, residents should finally begin to see some relief from unnecessary helicopter noise. This legislation will hold the FAA’s feet to the fire and ensure that [it is] making every effort to reduce helicopter noise. Now, the FAA will have one year to act on its pledge to reduce helicopter noise through voluntary measures, or be forced to put in place real rules to provide relief to homeowners.”

      Stakeholder Resistance

      Schiff’s tactic was seen as high-handed and an abuse of power by some working on the initiative, including PHPA board member Ed Story, who told AIN that Schiff is “a politician who has really decided to beat his chest and make this his issue and try and gain some form of popularity by doing so.

      “This legislation is poorly worded and disregards all the actions taken by the Professional Helicopter Pilots Association and the industry over the last couple of years, and particularly over the last year. It’s premature…an abuse of the system. He [Schiff] shouldn’t have done it, and it is upsetting to people like me who have spent a lot of time [working the issue] pro bono. If he wants cooperation, this is not the way to get it.”

      Numerous other members of L.A.’s helicopter community echoed Story’s sentiments, including Larry Welk, president of Angel City Air, a company that flies a fleet of Airbus AStars in support of the local news media.

      “It is such a small segment of the population that is actually complaining about this [helicopter noise],” Welk told AIN. “To insert it into the omnibus was not necessary at all. I’m trying to figure out who benefits. If you talk to the homeowner groups they will tell you that they didn’t have anything to do with it.”

      Welk disputes Schiff’s assessment, and claims that voluntary “fly friendly” measures are actually working to reduce helicopter noise, “based on meetings I have had with the homeowners’ associations.”

      Kurt Robinson, CEO of Robinson Helicopter in Torrance, Calif., told AIN that his company had been working with the FAA and the City of Torrance since the late 1970s on voluntary noise-abatement measures that included flying approved routes and higher altitudes, flying only during normal business hours Monday through Friday, and not flying at night or over weekends. “We are strict in what we allow and don’t allow,” Robinson said. “We are committed to fly no lower than 600 feet agl, but as a matter of practice we never fly lower than 1,000 feet. Our biggest concern is safety.”

      “You’ve got this huge helicopter industry out here that is willing to make changes and help,” Welk said. “Yet when we actually do help there is this political force working against us. So I am skeptical that I’ll be able to get people in the helicopter industry to come [back] to the table. Every time we have been working with the community, the residents are happier, but the politicians just amp up the rhetoric.”

      Welk said that the number of media helicopters serving the L.A. area has declined in recent years (for example, there are no more traffic helicopters and several television stations have pooled helicopters) and that those still flying have adopted best practices in the wake of what became known as “Carmageddon One.” A section of busy Interstate 405 was shut down the weekend of July 15, 2011 for replacement of part of the Mulholland Bridge, which spans the Sepulveda Pass, an event that was supposed to produce massive traffic jams. In reality, most motorists heeded warnings to find alternate routes. However, seven ENG helicopters began arriving over the scene at 4 a.m. and lingered throughout the weekend, producing a heavy volume of noise complaints.

      When the second bridge span was replaced the weekend of Sept. 29, 2012 (Carmageddon Two), news organizations used one pool helicopter that flew in and out quickly for the shot. The same pool arrangement was expected to be used to film lane closures over the 405 the weekend of February 14 last month.

      Welk said his own pilots receive daily safety briefings that include weekly updated hot lists of sensitive areas to avoid, such as the Hollywood sign, and have adopted other voluntary measures such as flying higher, minimizing loiter times and staying over an area only for the duration of the live television shot.

      Ed Story said that most helicopter pilots flying the basin already use the FAA helicopter route chart, which shows noise-abatement routes (mostly over freeways) and large icons to denote noise-sensitive areas such as the Hollywood Bowl. He said the PHPA had been asking the FAA to combine the helicopter chart with the Los Angeles terminal area chart to make it more useful to all pilots.

      Public-Sector Operations

      Of the estimated 200 helicopters based in the greater Los Angeles area, the majority are operated by the public sector. Law enforcement and fire rescue helicopters, estimated to account for anywhere from 60 to 86 percent of the total helicopter traffic in the L.A. basin, have similarly adopted a series of best practices to minimize their noise footprints, says Steve Roussell, western regional director for the Airborne Law Enforcement Association (ALEA) and a pilot for the Los Angeles Police Department.

      “All of us [the various police and fire agencies in the area] have fly-friendly programs,” Roussell said, adding that all LAPD pilots are encouraged to “keep it high and over the freeway” unless they are responding to a call. Roussell said all the area agencies are sensitive to noise complaints and go out of their way to accommodate property owners whenever possible. “The Los Angeles Fire Department helicopters are based at Van Nuys [airport] and they don’t even use the established Bull Creek Departure anymore because of the complaints from a vocal repeat customer” who lives underneath it, he said.

      Nevertheless, noise concerns do not outweigh public safety, Roussell emphasized.

      “We don’t want to hinder our pilots from making command decisions because they were afraid of violating [noise] policy,” and often they have little choice to do so, he said, explaining that the LAPD uses a computerized system called CompStat that analyzes crime data and determines which assets to deploy preemptively on any given day in a specific area–typically residential areas–including helicopters. And there is pressure to perform. “Once a quarter the chief [Charlie Beck] will ask Air Support what CompStat missions we have addressed,” Roussell said.

      However, helicopter first responders were exempted from mandatory noise provisos in previous standalone bills, and Roussell said Schiff had personally assured local law enforcement that this would continue in any future legislation. “I just assumed we were exempted in the omnibus bill, too,” Roussell said.

      They weren’t.

      Days after the bill passed, Schiff told KCRW radio listeners “there are no exemptions” for law enforcement. A reading of the bill language confirms this. “When law enforcement is part of the problem, they will be pressured to be part of the solution,” Schiff said.

      “We feel betrayed by the congressman,” Roussell told AIN. “Especially in light of the work we have been doing for the last several years to help mitigate noise as an industry. The whole time we [law enforcement] were promised an exemption, then this new legislation comes out with no exemption. Betrayal is the common feeling among all of us.”

      Larry Welk thinks Schiff might have inadvertently strengthened the helicopter community in the process. By eliminating the exemption for first-response helicopters, Schiff has made those agencies an active participant in the debate. “It’s going to be an uphill climb for [him]. The majority of noise generated by helicopters over Los Angeles is public service and they are just doing their jobs. Nobody is putting a law in effect that bans the use of a police or fire siren. It is part of living in the city,” he commented.

      Welk thinks there is a good chance lawmakers and residents won’t give voluntary measures proper credit and that the FAA’s advice will be disregarded. “The blueprint is there. It’s the North Shore Route on Long Island. It doesn’t matter what the FAA recommends. The FAA studied the problem and issued a report and Congress said, ‘That’s not good enough.’ The government’s professionals, the FAA looked at this, they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

      Beyond the rhetoric, there does not appear to be an objective mechanism or reporting system in place that can effectively measure and track helicopter noise complaints, Schiff’s benchmark for mandatory FAA action. The local helicopter noise coalition, the property owners and the PHPA have agreed after study that implementing the PlaneNoise complaint management system is the best solution. It’s the same system the Eastern Region Helicopter Council uses to track helicopter noise complaints over Long Island. However, so far neither Congressman Schiff nor the L.A. County Board of Supervisors has offered implementation funding. Ed Story said the system would cost approximately $35,000 to implement and publicize, a paltry sum considering Los Angeles County’s $28.2 billion annual budget.

      “The thing that is so irritating to us is that the politicians make a big deal out of this,” said Story. “But they disappear when we ask for a monitoring system so we can deal with facts, not emotions.”

      Noise-abatement Language

      “Sec. 119D. The Secretary shall (1) evaluate and adjust existing helicopter routes above Los Angeles, and make adjustments to such routes if the adjustments would lessen impacts on residential areas and noise-sensitive landmarks; (2) analyze whether helicopters could safely fly at higher altitudes in certain areas above Los Angeles County; (3) develop and promote best practices for helicopter hovering and electronic news gathering; (4) conduct outreach to helicopter pilots to inform them of voluntary policies and to increase awareness of noise sensitive areas and events; (5) work with local stakeholders to develop a more comprehensive noise complaint system; and (6) continue to participate in collaborative engagement between community representatives and helicopter operators: Provided, that not later than one year after enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall begin the development of regulations related to the impact of helicopter use on the quality of life and safety of the people of Los Angeles County unless the Secretary can demonstrate the effectiveness of actions taken under the previous proviso to address helicopter noise.”


      • #4
        Florida US Air Force Base Tells Civilian Helicopter Operator to "Go Away"

        The 96th Security Forces Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base on Tuesday issued a trespassing citation to Timberview Helicopters and ordered it to cease operations just south of the Destin bridge.

        Since earlier this month, the company has been operating from a barge in East Pass anchored just south of the bridge and adjacent to Air Force beach land.

        Timberview's helipad which the USAF has ordereded to be moved

        “Eglin leadership … has concerns on several levels, including safety and environmental impact and legal access,” said Mike Spaits, the base’s environmental spokesman.

        Spaits said Timberview was asked “to disperse from the area.”

        Timberview owner Justin Johnson, did not return phone calls Tuesday but on Monday said that he chose that location for his barge because it sits just outside Okaloosa County’s new aircraft restricted zone, which covers most of Crab Island and East Pass. Inside the restricted zone, hang gliders, helicopters, parasails, hot air balloons, seaplanes and glider excursions are prohibited.

        Johnson said the Air Force has no grounds to complain because he’s not operating off the beach.


        • #5
          More 'Floridans' Complain About Helicopters

          Residents of Destin in Florida are complaining about beach helicopter tours operating from a location between Highway 98 and Commons Drive.

          Some people say it's spoiling the atmosphere in their beachside neighborhood. Local resident Laura Hussey said "The Henderson Park Townhomes are right in the middle of Destin, but you don't feel any hustle and bustle. They're right next to the state park, so they're used to things being pretty quiet around here."

          (File Photo)

          Beach Helicopter worked with Okaloosa County and other agencies for more than two years to get their permits. Owner Mike Schaeffer says he wants to be a good neighbor, so he's not flying over any residential areas. "There's a section of trees in between 98 and the beach that there's not even a nature trail on, that we go to and from the beach, that's our only in and out" said Schaeffer. GPS tracks confirm the helicopter only flies over the woods. The same state park woods the townhome owners counted on to keep their oasis quiet.

          "So he's not flying over homes, but he's flying right in front of our units across the park. It's noisy, we come for peace and boom boom boom boom, helicopter blades whirling" said local resident
          ​Tracey Tapp. Neighbors say the chopper made twenty passes on Sunday.

          Schaeffer says they're not that busy yet, but they soon hope to be. "We were approved by the FAA, we're approved by FDOT, we're approved by Okaloosa County for being in here, we've followed every rule" said
          Schaeffer. Destin municipality spokesperson Frost Jones says the townhome owners are hearing from others on the beach who say the noise is disturbing. "By no means am I advocating that he be shut down. That's not my intention. My intention is to shed a light on the frequency, and that that frequency be lessened" said Jones.


          • #6
            Residents complain about helicopter noise at Trump Golf Club in Jupiter

            Complaints about noisy helicopters illegally landing and taking off at the Trump National Jupiter golf club are being investigated, but club officials say only “a handful” have landed and left from the golf course in the past year.

            “We get lots of helicopters flying over here at low altitudes. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Businesses doing flyovers. But they don’t land and take off here,” said Tony Servideo, general manager of the the golf club that Donald Trump bought in 2012.


            • #7
              Officials from Portsmouth, New Hampshire Seeking to Solicit FAA Support Against Seacoast Helicopters

              Portsmouth officials have agreed to travel to Massachusetts to meet with the Federal Aviation Administration about noise complaints concerning the operation of Seacoast Helicopters.

              Mayor Robert Lister said a group of five officials, including him, City Councilor Jack Thorsen and Deputy City Manager David Allen, will travel to Burlington, Mass. on Nov. 20 for the meeting.

              “We’re going down to see if we can open the lines of communication and let them know what the concerns of the residents are,” Lister said Monday. “We’re hoping to have a discussion about helicopters and their flight patterns over the city.”

              City officials had invited FAA officials to attend a public meeting in Portsmouth, but the FAA refused.

              The FAA released a statement that said they declined to meet with the public about noise complaints because “airport operators are responsible for addressing noise impacts on the communities they serve.”

              A Seacoast Helicopters R44

              “The FAA's primary mission is to ensure the safety and efficiency of our nation's navigable airspace,” they said in a statement. “It does not have the authority to prohibit aircraft overflights of a particular geographic area unless the operation is unsafe, or the aircraft is operated in a manner inconsistent with Federal Aviation Regulations.”

              Lister remains disappointed that FAA officials wouldn’t come to Portsmouth to meet with the City Council and city residents.

              “We could have at that point had a public session where they could have heard from residents and responded to residents,” Lister said. “It would have been televised and the message would be gotten first hand, not second hand.”

              The FAA said Portsmouth can only bring five people to the Nov. 20 meeting, Lister said.

              “We’re pleased we can at least see where it goes from here,” Lister said about the meeting at the Regional Offices of the FAA.

              The number of noise complaints received at the Pease Development Authority — which oversees the Portsmouth International Airport at Pease — has jumped dramatically during the last five months when Seacoast Helicopters began conducting its red-helicopter tours over Portsmouth and other Seacoast areas, according to PDA statistics.

              PDA officials received 226 noise complaints during the last five months, 169 of which were related to helicopter noise. Most but not all of the complaints involved Seacoast Helicopter operations, they said.

              “Typically there might be 10 a month,” Airport Director Bill Hopper said recently about noise complaints before Seacoast Helicopters started operating.
              Pease Development Authority Executive Director David Mullen said he’d like to have someone from the PDA attend the meeting, but he’s not yet sure if they will.

              Still, he acknowledged there’s really nothing the FAA can do to regulate where Seacoast Helicopters flies as long as they follow FAA rules.

              “It is a permitted use and they don’t regulate overflights over Portsmouth,” Mullen said Monday. “As long as Seacoast Helicopters maintains safe operations, there’s nothing regulatory that can be done.”

              Seacoast Helicopters owner Bruce Cultrera has repeatedly told the Portsmouth Herald that he is already flying his tours at 1,000 feet or more, higher than he is required to by the FAA.

              And he has refused so far to change how he operates his business.

              FAA regulations state that helicopters, if their operation is “conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface,” may operate below even the 500 feet requirement for planes flying over non-congested areas, according to a copy of the regulation provided to the Portsmouth Herald.