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Thu, Nov 10, 2011

Los Angeles County Board Of Supervisors Backs Berman Helo Noise Bill

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 head.

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 LA.
 
"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 Hollywood sign. 
 
"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 areas."

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.

FMI: http://bos.co.la.ca.us, www.house.gov/berman, www.phpa.org

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