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.