Helicopter Hella Loud, Part 2: Can the FAA Regulate the Noise Pollution?

A lot of LA natives have gotten accustomed to (the helicopter noise) but it scares a lot of tourist it sets a bad rep for the LA natives– TheJosePerez of South Los Angeles on Twitter

This part two of a series on helicopter noise in Los Angeles. Read part one on the nature of the noise, part three on the LAPD and part four on the communities' response.

 

 Photo by Bernardo Alps

 

 

For the Federal Aviation Administration the focus is on safety, not noise.


“The FAA does not regulate aircraft noise,” said Ian Gregor, the public affairs manager for the Pacific region of the FAA.


“If a noise complaint involved an allegation that an aircraft was flying improperly low or unsafely, we would investigate the safety component of that complaint.”

Safety means that the helicopter “needs to be operated so it doesn’t pose a hazard to people or property on the ground,” Gregor said.

In other words, they can’t kick up rocks and they must be able to land safely with a total loss of engine power.
 
“The primary goal is safety,” Gregor said. In the Los Angeles area “helicopters are operated very safely.”

Safety does not include noise. And helicopters have no noise regulations - and can do pretty much anything but crash.

There are no limits to how many helicopters can be in an area and there are no flight paths they must follow, unless they are in controlled air space, such as an airport.

“If you are operating safely, and not in a controlled airspace, you can go anywhere you want,” Gregor said.
 
The FAA does not want to regulate noise but they also make it clear it’s not a fight that local authorities can wage.

INFOGRAPHIC: Click here to launch "Helicopter Noise Reduction by Altitude" by Brian Frank

Gregor points out that because of the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990 locals have no jurisdiction over airport sound. Local governments were imposing different standards and restrictions, impeding interstate commerce and making it difficult to run an airport or an airline.

The report states that: “The Congress finds that (1) aviation noise management is crucial to the continued increase in airport capacity; (2) community noise concerns have led to uncoordinated and inconsistent restrictions on aviation which could impede the national air transportation systems; (3) a noise policy must be implemented at the national level.

There has been no policy as of yet and the report doesn’t mention helicopters.

 

In December 2004 Congress commissioned a study by the FAA called the “Nonmilitary Helicopter Urban Noise Study.”

The FAA found that noise reduction benefits can be achieved with higher altitude flight, but it also reported the FAA does not track the number of helicopter operations nor does the FAA actively monitor noise in metropolitan areas.

The report stated helicopter noise boiled down to annoyance because it wasn’t continuous. There’s that word again – annoyance – to denote that it’s not a serious issue.

The report did recommend the FAA should establish a methodology to deal with helicopter noise. Gregor didn’t want to comment on the report because he didn’t know what follow-up was done and could not locate its author.

 


“The FAA encourages communities and aircraft operators to reach voluntary noise mitigation agreements and, when possible, we sometimes implement air traffic procedures to aid noise abatement,” Gregor said.

But he added, “These procedures would, of course, only apply to aircraft flying in controlled airspace. Examples are LAX night time over-the-water operations and our attempt to evenly split Phoenix departures to the east and west.”

Still Gregor points out, that other jurisdictions, such as cities, do not have the authority to regulate aircraft; only the FAA can do that. And they are primarily conc
erned with safety, not noise. The logic whirls around like the rotor of a helicopter.

 


Many times the media has more than 1 helicopter following a story for extended periods of time. I live near the beach we already have to deal with LAPD copters, add in the media and it is too much noise! Too be woken up in the morning by media copters trying to get a shot of Lindsay Lohan leaving her house in her car for court is ridiculous!!!!!!! Who gives a crap! LAPD calls in air support too frequently in my opinion too. – A Venice resident*

So who's the biggest culprit in town, and what do they have to say about reducing noise? In the next part, we'll speak with the Los Angeles Police Department about that notorious avian species now considered native to the land, the "ghetto bird."

Next up: Blue Steel: LAPD and the "Ghetto Birds"
PART IV: A Rare Success, and Getting Involved


                                                                                     •••
This series on helicopter noise is brought to you by Spot.Us, with contributing support from the California Endowment and KCET. Eddie North-Hager runs a news & social network for a number of L.A. neighborhoods, including Leimert Park.

 Starred comments are taken from a survey taken in May 2011 distributed to members of LeimertParkBeat.com, EchoParkOnline.com and SanPedroNewsPilot.com. It was also sent out on Twitter specifically through @Venice311, @CoCoSouthLA and @HubCityLivin. At the time of publication 57 surveys were completed. To see the survey, click here.
To take a survey about helicopter noise, Click here.

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