Helicopters Arriving Here on Cat’s Paws?

Some Long Island residents subject to the deafening, foundation-rattling noise of helicopters may soon instead hear a collective sigh of relief. The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to issue mandatory instructions that would require helicopters to fly over Long Island Sound for most of the way here in an attempt to lessen the cacophony over some residential areas.

According to Senator Chuck Schumer, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is committed to having the plans by Memorial Day, with the hopes of putting them into effect by the Fourth of July. The mandate would require that helicopters fly north of Long Island at an altitude of at least 2,500 feet.

“Secretary LaHood’s strong and unequivocal statement should serve as a wake-up call to the helicopter industry,” Schumer said, as reported in The Wall Street Journal. “Long Island will not continue to be the Wild West for low flying, disruptive and noisy helicopters.”

However, the plan has met from a wide array of criticism, especially from residents who believe that the orders do not tackle the issue of helicopters that would have to cross over the North Fork to go to the Hamptons. Depending upon the flight paths, the helicopters flying from the Long Island Sound to the South Fork could be relegated to a small area, subjecting select residents to the majority of the noise.

The Eastern Region Helicopter Council (ERHC) has echoed those concerns, citing a similar attempt by Schumer in 2007 to lessen helicopter noise by restricting flights to the North Shore.

“This (2007) restricted flight plan resulted in a highly concentrated and condensed flight pattern for all helicopters over the north shore,” Jeffery Smith, the chairman of the ERHC, said according to The Wall Street Journal. “This is a misguided plan on every level.”

In addition, Senator Schumer has said that the FAA is considering similar legislation to apply to routes over the Atlantic Ocean. However, south shore residents are also concerned about what areas the helicopters would cross over in order to arrive at their landing pads. In a December 2011 press release, the Quiet Skies Coalition lamented that southerly routes will likely require helicopters to fly over Georgica and Wainscott.

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