The FAA’s regulations scarcely mention helicopter flight and do so without stipulating any definitive flight minimums. More recent amendments regulating noise make some passing mention of “safe” flight levels while prescribing nothing definite on either noise limitations or specific flight altitudes for helicopters. As George Abrahams, Director of an L.A. Neighborhood Association, was quoted in the New York Times article as saying, “The problem with helicopters is the flight rule; there is no minimum altitude. As long as they are not knocking the antenna off your roof, they can fly wherever they want.” Unfortunately, Mr. Abrahams seems to be correct.
Where does that leave those constantly affected by noisy, low-flying or hovering overhead helicopters? In particular, where does that leave those living with hearing impairment? What are those most likely to be impacted by this unregulated noise to do when their homes and daily activities are assaulted by overhead helicopters, flying “without hazard to persons or property?” Get over it? Move? Pray for rain?
For the FAA, the focus is on safety, not noise. The FAA does not regulate noise and will investigate a noise complaint only if it involved an allegation that an aircraft was flying too low. In 2004, Congress commissioned the FAA to conduct a study entitled, “Nonmilitary Helicopter Urban Noise Study.” The FAA reported that noise was a mere annoyance because it was not continuous. You may have noticed that throughout this series of blogs, the word annoyance is used to describe unregulated noise. This is to denote that it’s not yet a serious issue to the FAA.
Those of you who are experts in hearing and hearing loss might step up to the plate and let the FAA or your elected, federal representatives know just how hazardous to one’s hearing health this unregulated helicopter noise is. There are likely some powerful lobbyists out there ready to affirm the need for newsgathering, traffic regulation, crime control, and the like. Who speaks, then, for the hapless victims described here. Those always crying and complaining but without result?
The locus of reform is simple: require FAA regulations encompassing flight and noise levels of helicopters over residential areas.