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Fri, Feb 25, 2011

New York Senator Includes Noise Regulations In FAA Reauthorization Bill

Senator Charles Schumer Wants FAA To Regulate Helicopter Noise

A provision in the FAA re-authorization bill passed last week by the U.S. Senate gives the FAA a 12-month deadline to implement helicopter flight regulations in New York. The amendment, introduced by New York Senator Charles Schumer (D) also provides explicit legal authority to the FAA to implement helicopter flight regulations, which he says will shield the agency from any potential litigation. Earlier this year, the FAA announced it was taking comments on proposed regulations, but has not acted to implement them. Schumer’s legislation places a hard and fast deadline to do so and gives explicit authority to the agency, a key to timely promulgation of meaningful regulations.

Senator Schumer

“This legislation puts all ambiguity aside, and for the first time, gives the FAA unquestionable authority to put helicopter regulations in effect while providing a hard and fast deadline to start providing some relief from ear-shattering helicopter noise,” said Schumer in a news release. “We have worked in every possible way to get these regulations in place and now, by passing a law giving the FAA the explicit authority to regulate helicopter noise on Long Island, the ability of the agency to do so cannot be questioned.”

Since first being contacted about noise from low-flying helicopters in Long island, Schumer says he has worked with officials from the FAA, New York metropolitan area helicopter operators, and airport managers from Nassau and Suffolk Counties, NY to establish voluntary solutions to eradicate helicopter noise. While parties originally agreed to voluntary minimum flight altitudes of 2500 feet and the establishment of a North Shore route to divert helicopters over the Long Island Sound, those recommendations were largely ignored. After years of advocacy by Senator Schumer, the FAA finally agreed last year to put in place mandatory regulations, but to date they have not been enacted. Schumer accuses the agency of slow-walking their implementation out fear that their legal authority to do so would be challenged by the helicopter industry. Schumer’s legislation, which passed as an amendment to the FAA Reauthorization bill last week, provides explicit legal authority to the FAA to regulate helicopters on Long Island and makes it mandatory that those regulations are enacted within 12 months of the legislation being signed into law.

“This is the end of a chapter and makes it indisputably clear that the FAA has the legal authority to implement robust helicopter regulations on Long Island and bring some relief from the incessant buzz of helicopter noise that has plagued Long Island families for years.”

"We are proud to stand with Senator Schumer as he takes this issue head on," said North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman. "This is the kind of leadership that will improve the quality of life for tens of thousands of North Hempstead residents and people throughout Long Island."

Many of these flights are from New York City out to the East End of the Island and are for recreational or commercial purposes during the summer months. The number of flights does increase during summer, but Schumer says they are a constant presence throughout the entire year. He contends that the flights impact communities in countless ways, not the least of which is disruption of daily life, forcing people to stay inside during the summer, and reducing property values in impacted areas.

There is no similar amendment in the House version of the bill, which has yet to be considered by the full House of Representatives. The North Shore Sun reports that aviation industry organizations have opposed pushing all helicopter traffic into a single corridor, saying it creates a collision hazard. There are also concerns about increased fuel costs to follow the longer route, as well as the costs for GPS equipment some say would be necessary for the precise navigation required to accurately follow the corridor.



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