Blog: Dealing With Helicopter Noise

An introduction to what is being considered to curb helicopter noise in the Los Angeles area and efforts that are underway to address local concerns in the South Bay.

Freddie Benson of Palos Verdes Estates is no stranger to helicopter noise, even though she lives miles from any airport. She lives on the cliffs of Palos Verdes Estates, about 130 feet above the seashore, a very popular path for helicopter flights many of which originate from Torrance Airport. A few weeks ago she was startled by a helicopter that flew by below eye level and it was “absolutely deafening.” She’s urging the FAA to get helicopters to fly higher and farther out over the ocean, away from noise-sensitive areas.

Benson was one of about half-dozen citizens from the South Bay who made the trek to Sherman Oaks a couple weeks ago to testify at a hearing on Helicopter Noise in Los Angeles County conducted by Congressman Howard Berman (Van Nuys) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Berman has introduced a bill (HR 2677) in Congress that would direct the FAA to begin regulating helicopter flights in Los Angeles County to reduce noise. Hundreds of residents showed up to explain how the noise impacts them and suggest changes.

Judy Brunetti, co-president of the Hollywood Riviera Homeowners Association, said there have been as many as 50 flights a day over their area, which stretches from near Torrance Airport all the way to the ocean.

Currently, the FAA has no specific regulations that control how high or where helicopters can fly. There is an FAA Advisory (AC 91-36D) that “recommends” pilots fly not less than 2,000 feet above ground level, when possible, to reduce noise. But, very few fly that high.

The FAA is planning to study the issue further and produce a report to Congress sometime in the next year.

There is a growing movement to address the issue. U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have introduced legislation (S 2019) in the Senate, similar to Berman’s bill in the House of Representatives. On Aug. 6, in Sacramento, the California Senate passed a resolution (AJR 25) in support of both bills, making it the official position of the State Legislature. (The resolution had already been passed in the State Assembly.)

On August 14, the Los Angeles City Council voted to support Berman’s bill, joining a host of other cities, including the South Bay cities of Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills Estates, Lomita and Hermosa Beach.  The County of Los Angeles also supports the bill.

The FAA is accepting comments and suggestions from the public via email at 9-AWP-LA-NOISE@faa.gov. Input will be accepted until Sept. 7, 2012.  The FAA will review comments, hold meetings with helicopter operators, and produce a report to Congress sometime in the next year.

In an independent action specific to Torrance Airport, the FAA has offered to take a look at changing the Airport's arrival departure/routes.

There are five arrival/departure routes for the Airport with most helicopters using either the West PCH Route (over Torrance and Redondo Beach) or the Southeast Route (over Torrance, Lomita, Rolling Hills Estates and San Pedro). These are suggested routes for helicopters to use within a few miles of the Airport. After following the routes, helicopters usually fly close to the shoreline around Palos Verdes Peninsula and along the Beach Cities.

The process of dealing with helicopter noise is going to play out over the coming months and even years. Decisions about current routes and traffic volumes were put into place without any public notice or input. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen again.

Local residents who are affected by helicopter flights should tune in, ask questions and make comments. 

More information is available from Citizens for Quiet Helicopters at helicopternoise.com.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

John Bailey August 18, 2012 at 07:33 PM
If a homeowner is to have full enjoyment of his/her land, s/he must have exclusive control of the immediate reaches of the enveloping atmosphere. The rule is that the landowner owns not only as much of the space above the ground as s/he occupies but also as much thereof as s/he may use in connection with the land. However, this right is not fixed. It varies with the varying needs and is coextensive with them. Thus, a landowner’s property interest in the land extends to the airspace directly over the property, to the extent that the airspace can be used to benefit the underlying land. The fact that s/he does not occupy it in a physical sense, by the erection of buildings and the like, is not material. The common law stance on the relative rights of the landowner and the aviator to the use of air space above the surface of the earth is that an unprivileged intrusion in the space above the surface of the earth, at whatever height above the surface, is a trespass.
Martin Rubin August 18, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Scientific research findings have shown stronger evidence of noise affecting health. With respect to aviation, human health must be part of the equation when considering acceptable noise as well as air pollution impacts. In 1972, the Noise Control Act was passed and Congress declared: "...it is the policy of the United States to promote an environment for all Americans free from noise that jeopardizes their health and welfare." The EPA summary of the Noise Control Act states, "Inadequately controlled noise presents a growing danger to the health and welfare of the Nation's population, particularly in urban areas." Regarding the history of this act the EPA states on their website, "In the past, the EPA coordinated all federal noise control activities through its Office of Noise Abatement and Control. However, in 1981, the Administration at that time concluded that noise issues were best handled at the State or local government level. As a result, the EPA phased out the office's funding in 1982.. However, the Noise Control Act of 1972 and the Quiet Communities Act of 1978 were not rescinded by Congress and remain in effect today, although essentially unfunded."
Martin Rubin August 18, 2012 at 08:30 PM
The public should not dismiss the health hazards of noise. "Why Noise Matters" explores noise pollution, an important but often ignored environmental problem, both intertwined with consumer capitalism, and a class issue. Chapter three: Hear Me Now! Noise Can Harm Your Health, by Arline L. Bronzaft "Noise is not just an annoyance or an inconvenience that must be tolerated; it is a health hazard." John Stewart, with Arline L. Bronzaft, Francis McManus, Nigel Rodgers and Val Weedon, Why Noise Matters: A Worldwide Perspective on the Problems, Policies and Solutions (Earthscan 2011), x, 174pp.
GasMeUp August 18, 2012 at 11:55 PM
Side order of LEAD exhaust with your HELICOPTER NOISE anyone? Fact is: they go together. A major pollutant duo! Whether one ignores that or stays uninformed, it's likely not a good idea for impacted residents to do so. "Nearly 200,000 airplanes and helicopters in the U.S. continue to fly on fuel containing lead, despite the toxic metal's known health risks to the children living, playing and breathing below." http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/12/lead-emissions-children-aviation-fuel_n_1338131.html
Alice Huang August 25, 2012 at 04:11 PM
I live in redondo beach and I need ear plug to sleep! It's a disaster for paying such mortgage every month and get this kind of quality life.


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