Tag Archive: helicopter noise

Stressed New Yorkers file record helicopter noise complaints

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

Jose Martinez, The City, reports that helicopter complaints to 311 have soared with several thousand more reported through mid-November than were reported for all of 2019–7,758 complaints up to November 15, 2020, versus 4,400 for 2019. Martinez rightfully notes that the noise emanating from the helicopters make New Yorkers feel even worse, now that so many are cooped up in their homes. Martinez quotes one New York resident as saying the “noise just makes you crazy” and another saying that “I have wanted to run into the street screaming.” I want to stress that research has clearly demonstrated that noise is hazardous to mental and physical health–it is not “just annoying.” Rather, noise is detrimental to our well-being!

Martinez reports that Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney introduced a bill in the House to regulate helicopter noise, but we join in her frustration that there is no comparable bill in the Senate and  the Federal Aviation Administration has essentially ignored the problem. Let me add that the FAA has been negligent overall in curbing aviation noise, despite the growing body of evidence on the health hazards of noise.

New York City has regulations covering the city’s helicopter travel and the accompanying noises but neighboring states do not and their helicopters fly over our city. Martinez notes that Borough President Gale Brewer will be convening a task force next month to address tourist flights and has invited officials from New Jersey to join this task force. She will also explore helicopter use by the city’s police department and television stations. New York City had introduced legislation last July to amend the New York City’s administrative code to reduce noise by chartered helicopters, but it was put on hold due to the pandemic. I would hope that members of the City Council will be part of Ms. Brewer’s task force.

Considering the many hardships that New Yorkers are dealing with related to the COVID-19 pandemic, one might question why attention is being paid to the city’s helicopter noise problem. Let me point out again that noise serves to exacerbate the overall stress that we are now feeling. and this is definitely not good for our health.

Dr. Arline Bronzaft is a researcher, writer, and consultant on the adverse effects of noise on mental and physical health. She is co-author of “Why Noise Matters,” author of “Listen to the Raindrops” (children’s book illustrated by Steven Parton), and has written extensively about noise in books, encyclopedias, academic journals, and the popular press.  In addition, she is a Professor Emerita of the City University of New York and Board member of GrowNYC.

Good news about helicopter overflights? Stayed tuned.

Photo credit: Prayitno  licensed under CC BY 2.0

by David M. Sykes, Vice Chair, The Quiet Coalition

On August 31, the Federal Aviation Administration finally complied with Congress’s now-20-year-old “National Parks Air Tour Management Act of 2000” that requires the FAA to actively reduce and manage helicopter traffic over national parks and monuments. That’s right–it’s taken 20 years. Will anything change now? That remains to be seen, but the decades-long battle with the FAA to constrain noisy and dangerous helicopter sight-seeing flights seems to stumble from one tragic accident to the next. So it may continue until either (1) somebody invents a truly quiet and safe helicopter, or (2) communities–and smaller federal agencies like the National Park Service–finally gain local control over their airspace, or (3) the head of the FAA, who happens to be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, leaves after the upcoming election, and the incoming president appoints somebody who will listen to the public’s concerns about noise and safety.

Please note that there’s already a proposed new Congressional Act on the table in DC called “The Safe and Quiet Skies Act of 2019.” It was offered by Hawaii Congressman Ed Case, who says that “[t]here’s a groundswell of opposition to these [helicopter overflight] tours….[but] the FAA has shown no interest in regulating this industry.”

Case himself keeps his eye on Flight Radar24 to stay on top of the problems encountered by his constituents back home in Hawaii. He also sits on DC’s growing, 48-member Congressional Quiet Skies Caucus. Since the 2016 election of Donald Trump, this caucus has grown significantly—enough to twist arms and win noise-control concessions during the struggle over the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018.

The point is that there’s now an organized and growing group of members of Congress who are paying attention to the aircraft noise issue, and they’ve shown they can get something done. Now let’s hope they’ll grow again in the election this November and flex some muscle over the next Congress beginning in 2021.

David Sykes chairs several professional organizations in acoustical science: QCI Healthcare Acoustics Project, ANSI Committee S12-WG44, the Rothschild Foundation Task Force on Acoustics, and the FGI Acoustics Committee. He is lead author of “Sound & Vibration 2.0” (Springer, 2012), a contributor to the NAE’s “Technology for a Quieter America” and the GSA’s “Sound Matters,” and co-founded the Laboratory for Advanced Research in Acoustics at Rensselaer Polytech. A graduate of UC-Berkeley with advanced degrees from Cornell, he is a frequent organizer of professional conferences in the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Let’s hope this atrocity comes to an end soon

Photo credit: Sam Saunders licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The New York Post reports that relatively low cost helicopter service offered by the monsters behind Uber Copter and Blade are drowning Brooklyn residents in noise.  How bad can it be?  Residents in Park Slope say that Thanksgiving traffic was so hellish that the noise “drowned their peaceful neighborhood in a roar so loud it made windows rattle, dogs growl and outdoor conversations inaudible.” Another resident said nine helicopters flew over his home in the span of 90 minutes on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, adding that the copters come in “very low,” which makes them even louder.

According to the Post, the reason why Park Slope has been especially hard hit is that the companies are avoiding an all-water route and are purposefully flying over residential areas to save time and fuel.

While residents fume, some local pols are attempting to address the increase in unnecessary helicopter rides. The Post writes that Representatives Nadler, Maloney, and Velazquez have proposed a bill that would ban sightseeing and commuter helicopters, adding that the mayor said he supports the ban.

What a shame the mayor didn’t do something about this when he had the chance.

Here’s hoping that something is done soon to stop Uber Copter and Blade in their infancy.