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Tuesday, Nov 28, 2023

Homeowners Give New Helicopter Rules a Whirl

A coalition of homeowner groups has petitioned the U.S. Department of Transportation to set new regulations regarding helicopter activity in the L.A. region. The petitions filed last month address four areas of concern to the Los Angeles Area Helicopter Noise Coalition – minimum altitudes, hovering restrictions, mandatory media pooling and a coastal shoreline route. Steve May, a senior adviser with the Federal Aviation Administration’s Western-Pacific region, mentioned the petitions while updating the Valley Industry & Commerce Association’s aviation committee at its Nov. 4 meeting on helicopter noise in the San Fernando Valley. Getting new regulations by the FAA in place can take years, with priority given to rules addressing safety, May said. “These particular ones are not tied to safety and may fall at the high end of the (two- to three-year timetable),” he added. The issue of helicopter noise has been one that federal lawmakers have been trying to tackle for years as complaints by Valley residents have stacked up. Last year, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein added to an FAA spending bill a provision requiring the agency to take more action over a 12-month period to reduce helicopter noise in Los Angeles County. Transportation Secretary Anthony R. Foxx reported to Congress in April that progress was being made on the issue. Among the steps taken are launching a system for logging complaints about helicopter noise, setting discrete beacon codes to make it easier for the FAA to track where helicopters are flying and outreach to pilots to have them follow voluntary standards to reduce noise. “The (helicopter) operators have come to the table to discuss these things,” Glen Martin, regional administrator for the FAA’s Western-Pacific region, told the VICA committee. Another measure taken by the FAA is setting up a route about a quarter-mile offshore from Malibu to San Pedro for helicopters to use. That route will undergo a safety review in December followed by an environmental review, May said. “It could be published as early as spring of next year,” he added. While May and Martin were of the opinion that progress is being made, the anti-noise coalition said in its press release announcing its petitions that no significant agreements have been reached. “At this point, although we are certainly willing to continue talks on voluntary measures, we can no longer continue to rely on that approach alone,” coalition President Bob Anderson said in a statement. The petitions seek to have nonemergency helicopter flights no lower than 2,000 feet in altitude, prohibit media and tour helicopters from hovering in an area for more than five minutes every hour, require media to use a single pool helicopter when covering planned and unplanned incidents and require helicopters flying along the coastline to fly at least one-half mile offshore. Bill Withycombe, a former FAA official who now serves on the board of the Professional Helicopter Pilots Association, said at the VICA meeting that the minimum-altitude requirement shows that the homeowners coalition has no understanding of the airspace in Los Angeles. At 2,000 feet that would put helicopters in the midst of where small airplanes fly, he said, adding, “It’s a conflict the pilots see as a safety issue.” New Terminal The Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority this month approved the terms for a new terminal building that would provide extra protections for Burbank over the size of a new terminal. The authority wants to press ahead with a terminal of 14 gates in a building no larger than 355,000 square feet. It would be built on property the authority owns adjacent to the existing 211,000-square-foot terminal that dates from the 1930s. The terms voted on at the authority’s Nov. 2 meeting would require a supermajority of the authority, or two of the three representatives from three cities, to approve relocating passenger-related airport functions from a replacement terminal, amending the authority’s noise rules or how they are enforced, amending the authority’s voluntary curfew on scheduled airline operations after 10 p.m., and abandoning support for a mandatory curfew between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. The Burbank City Council is expected to vote on the terms at its Nov.16 meeting. In the early 1990s, the authority board voted to build a terminal with about 840,000 square feet. However, in 2000, Burbank residents approved Measure B that requires public approval of expansion or relocation of the airport’s terminal. The measure remains in effect and applies to the current proposal. The next step for the authority is the preparation of an environmental impact report. The authority approved the hiring of RS&H California, an aviation and environmental consulting firm in San Francisco, for an amount not to exceed $1.2 million. RS&H will prepare a report that will study three build alternatives and two no-build alternatives for the replacement terminal. Staff reporter Mark R. Madler can be reached at (818) 316-3126 or mmadler@sfvbj.com

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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