2018-04-25 / Features

Helicopter Noise And Reevaluating Safety Practices

In response to last month’s tragic Liberty Helicopter crash in the East River that claimed five lives, Council Member Paul Vallone chaired a hearing of the NYC Council’s Committee on Economic Development focused on reevaluating the safety protocols and practices in the sightseeing and charter helicopter industries and addressing overwhelming community concerns regarding helicopter noise pollution.

Vallone focused on the many safety concerns that arose as a result of last month’s crash. Prior to the hearing, the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) announced that they had executed a written term agreement with Firstflight Heliports to officially ban door-off tourism flights from operating out of the Downtown Manhattan Heliport (DMH). Despite this positive announcement, Vallone noted that a new helicopter master safety plan needs to be created after he pressed the EDC to explain the current existing safety regulations, whether they are derived from FAA mandates and if they are applied equally to corporate, charter and sightseeing flights, and what authority the EDC has to enforce additional regulations.

After EDC revealed that the sightseeing helicopter industry only provides $2-3 million in revenue for the city, Vallone and committee members questioned whether this surprisingly small amount of revenue is worth the environmental impact, safety concerns and unending misery from noise pollution that hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers face, Vallone explained.

With regard to noise pollution, the Committee heard Vallone’s resolution calling on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to make changes to the North Shore Helicopter Route, which currently favors Long Island to the detriment of all residents in Northeast Queens, Vallone noted. EDC expressed support of this issue and noted that the FAA would ultimately be the ones to make this change.

As a result of this hearing, Council Member Vallone called for the inclusion of aviation noise pollution in the city’s “Noise Code”, where it is currently not regulated. He noted that its inclusion in the noise code is absolutely warranted as helicopters often produce sound in the 80db to 102db range and that legislation will be drafted to codify aviation noise into law.

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