Congressman Seeks Federal Legislation Restricting Helicopter
Traffic Over LA
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has gone on record
supporting a bill proposed by Congressman Howard Berman (D-Van
Nuys) which calls for the FAA to designate helicopter flight paths
over the county and set minimum operational altitudes.
Berman (pictured) said he understands that helicopters are a
fact of life in a modern major American city, but said the recent
helicopter tours during "Carmageddon" brought the issue to a
In testimony before a roundtable held by the House
Transportation and Infrastructure Aviation Subcommittee
specifically on the issue, Berman likened his bill, H.R. 2677, the
Los Angeles Helicopter Noise Relief Act, to an amendment by New
York Senator Charles Schumer (D) to the FAA reauthorization bill
which has long been stalled in Congress. "My bill is modeled on a
similar amendment Chuck Schumer managed to include in the Senate
version of the FAA authorization bill covering helicopter flights
in Long Island," he said in his testimony. "To clarify, the bill is
only limited to LA County, and that’s because of the
extraordinary number of helicopters operating in the skies above
"And of course LA is unique in having helicopters operated by
tourism companies or the paparazzi hover over residential areas to
peer into celebrity homes or to just get an eagle eye view of the
"With such a large number of helicopters jockeying for a limited
amount of airspace, it’s only a matter of time before we have
a serious accident or worst."
Berman said his bill does not specify routes or altitudes,
because that is not the purview of Congress. "I think we can all
agree that Congress shouldn’t be in the position of directing
air traffic. It should be left up to the FAA – as my
bill would do," he said.
The Congressman added that his bill " has received widespread
support within the community, not only from local homeowners
associations, but also from numerous members of the California
State Assembly, the Los Angeles City Council, and the Los Angeles
County Board of Supervisors."
On its website, the Professional Helicopter Pilots Association
warns that such legislation often creates more problems that
it solves. "We caution lawmakers to give serious consideration with
regard to potential unintended consequences associated with
legislative initiatives that would affect the safe and efficient
use of the airspace," the organization said in a news release
posted on its website shortly after the legislation was introduced.
"Such legislative acts can threaten the safety of those in the
aircraft as well as those on the ground. By imposing restrictions
on the available airspace, altitudes, and routing for helicopters,
predicated upon no other consideration than noise, high intensity
aircraft congestion can be created within confined airspace layers.
This will result in conflicts not only between helicopters, but
also between airplanes that are operating to and from the various
airports or transiting the area. This could substantially decrease
safety when many different aircraft types, which travel at
different speeds, are no longer separated but are pushed closer
together in the airspace. Careful consideration must be given to
avoid forcing the helicopters over other communities which may be
even more sensitive to noise than the existing operating
Television station KCOP reports that LA County Supervisor Zev
Yaroslavsky intorudced the measure offically supporting the bill.
He said the PHPA pays "lip service" to noise abatement while some
tour operators brag about flying low enough to see what's going on
in celebrities' back yards.
The LA County Sheriff's office and fire department also wieghed
in, saying they were concerned that the legislation does not exempt
public safety and military aircraft, a problem that Congressman
Berman calls an oversight that will be corrected with an amendment
to the original bill.