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Karen Curley

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Helicopter Noise in the City

Posted: 08/03/2012 12:45 pm

Los Angeles has to be one of the noisiest cities in America. With all of our horn honking, people shouting, breaks squealing and helicopter noise, how does one get a moment's peace in our fair town? The biggest offender of all is helicopter noise. I have lived here almost nine years and I swear I've felt like I live in a police state most of the time. When I lived in Hollywood, every night there was a helicopter blazing right over my house. Hell, sometimes I thought I was about to be arrested there was so much noise. Now I live in Ktown and it's a lot less noise. I guess either there is a lot less crime here or the police just don't care about us. There was a helicopter last night flying over constantly, but at the same time I was at the doughnut shop a block from where I live and there were a bunch of cops hanging out, drinking coffee and eating doughnuts. There must have not been that much of a criminal emergency. So what is the deal with so much helicopter noise in Los Angeles?

Every day there are police, fire, news and paparazzi helicopters fighting for airspace in our city. You would think there would be a fair amount of FAA regulation to control all of the copters. But guess what? There is really no regulation at all. There is no FAA regulation as to how low these things can fly. There are no minimum altitudes for helicopters. A helicopter can fly as little as 100 feet away from a house and it is perfectly legal. Ian Gregor of the FAA has said there are basically no restrictions on where or when helicopters can fly. "We don't track noise complaints and we don't regulate aircraft noise." "An aircraft can be perfectly safe and perfectly annoying at the same time." Further the FAA will only investigate a noise complaint if the aircraft was flying too low or improperly and it will only investigate for those components, not because of noise. There are no limits as to how many helicopters can be in an area and no limit of where they can be, unless they are in a controlled flight area such as an airport. Sadly, the FAA does not seem to want to do anything about it. The FAA has gone on record to say, "Cities do not have the authority to regulate aircraft, only the FAA does and we are primarily concerned with safety not noise."

The city of Los Angeles operates with 18 police helicopters, six fire helicopters, and 17 sheriff's helicopters. That's not even counting the multitude of paparazzi helicopters, news helicopters, and tourist helicopters. The police respond with helicopters to crimes ranging from burglaries to vandalism. (Really, vandalism? How dangerous is that?) The city of Los Angeles has about one officer for every 400 residents. It uses helicopters to supplement the police force. Helicopters usually cover an average of 475 miles a day. They fly at a height of between 500 and 550 feet. The sound decibel of a helicopter flying at that height is 87 decibels. The police are aware of how loud their helicopters are. They could modernize their fleet and make them less noisy, but has found it is too expensive to do so. Apparently, they would rather just annoy its citizens.

So is there any relief in sight or are Los Angeles' citizens forced to lose sleep night after night? Federal lawmakers have called upon U.S. transportation officials to look into the helicopter noise problems in Los Angeles. They have also asked the FAA to regulate helicopter noise. There are two bills being considered in the House and Senate that would regulate noise caused by news, paparazzi and other commercial helicopters. Sadly it does not include police helicopters. The FAA also has scheduled a hearing on August 6 to listen to concerns about chopper noise. The FAA will hear complaints from local residents and community groups about helicopter noise, who are the most common offenders and where the noise seems to be the worst. Maybe the FAA will finally do something and we can all get a good night's sleep.

 
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