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Helicopter Noise Talks Fail


VOICES-After two years and 55 meetings, talks between the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), helicopter pilots, and residents in an effort to reduce helicopter noise in Los Angeles County have broken down.  There won't be the much sought after relief for residents of South Bay cities, many of them along the coastline, who supported legislation to reduce helicopter noise. 

In a report released to the Secretary of Transportation, the FAA says significant progress has been made, but residents disagree.  Talks were already underway in January, 2014, when Congress directed the Secretary of Transportation, who oversees the FAA, to make progress on reducing helicopter noise in Los Angeles County.  The FAA said the best way to resolve noise issues was through “collaborative engagement” between helicopter pilots and community stakeholders in an effort to reach voluntary agreements on issues such as helicopter routes and altitudes.  The legislation gave the FAA one year to make significant progress, or begin a regulatory process to address the problem.  

Local residents say no real, significant progress has been made on the critical action items such as evaluating and adjusting helicopter routes and altitudes.  According to Richard Root, a South Bay resident and Vice President of the Los Angeles Area Helicopter Noise Coalition (LAAHNC), who represented residents in the talks, “One of our proposals was for helicopter pilots fly farther offshore instead of on the shoreline. That would accomplish our objective of reducing noise on residents without moving it from one neighborhood to another.  But, pilots would not agree to a route any more than 300 feet offshore and that’s not far enough to make much difference.” 

Michael Savidan, a board member of the LAAHNC and Councilman for the City of Lomita, said “I am very disappointed that we were unable to reach an agreement on helicopter routes and altitudes that would reduce noise and improve the quality of life in our City. Our residents deserve better and we will continue to actively pursue a more satisfactory solution.” 

In recent years, the State of California, County of Los Angeles, and fifteen cities, many of them along the County’s coastline have supported the need for relief from helicopter noise.  The coastal cities include Malibu, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, and Long Beach. 

Torrance area residents were hopeful for improvements in helicopter routes to and from Torrance Airport, home to Robinson Helicopter Company.  Robinson is the world’s largest helicopter manufacturer and they conduct thousands of helicopter flights every year, most of them test flights.  In addition, every month Robinson conducts one, sometimes two, week-long training classes for 50 pilots who each get an hour of flight time.  

Amy Josefek, Co-President of the Riviera Homeowners Association in south Torrance said, “Ours is the quietest residential region in the City. However, some parts of it are now plagued by large numbers of helicopter flights bringing lots of noise. The City of Torrance should have conducted an environmental impact study giving residents notice of potential noise and safety impacts and allowing mitigation to be considered before granting Robinson’s 50 year lease. While we can't turn back the clock, maybe we can still lessen future impacts.”  

John Bailey, President of the Southeast Torrance Homeowners Association, and also a participant in the talks as a board member of LAAHNC, said “We tried to get Robinson to agree to some changes to reduce their noise impacts, but no agreement could be reached.” 

LAAHNC board members believe that since no significant progress has been made, the Secretary should begin the regulatory process as called for in the Act passed in January 2014. The FAA could consider adopting regulations governing helicopter operations, making them mandatory for pilots.


(John Bailey is president of the Southeast Torrance Homeowners Association.)





Vol 13 Issue 41

Pub: May 19, 2015




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