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Mandatory Regulations to Curb Helicopter Noise Announced


Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Issued May 24

Will be Followed by a 30 Day Public Comment Period

United States Senator Charles E. Schumer, joined by local residents and officials, announced that first-ever mandatory regulations were issued on Monday, May 24, that will set minimum altitudes and establish mandatory flight patterns for helicopters on Long Island that have long disrupted the quality of life of residents.

The proposed regulations are the result of years of work by Schumer, dating back to 2004, waging a relentless campaign at all levels of government, to rein in rogue helicopters flying at exceptionally low altitudes, creating deafening noise in local communities. The notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), issued Monday, will be followed by a 30 day public comment period. 

“These regulations are the culmination of years of work to protect Long Island residents from intrusive and disruptive helicopter noise that has impinged on the quality of life of families throughout the Island,” said Schumer. “Residents will finally have some peace and quiet and not have to worry about being jolted out of bed or interrupted at dinner. These regulations will make it clear, enough is enough.”

Schumer thanked Congressman Tim Bishop for his help in addressing the numerous noise and quality of life complaints of residents on the Island and for joining him in urging the FAA to examine the necessity of creating mandatory regulations. Since first being contacted about ear-shattering noise from low-flying helicopters in Long Island, Schumer began working with officials from the FAA, New York metropolitan area helicopter operators, and airport managers from Nassau and Suffolk counties to establish voluntary solutions to eradicate onerous helicopter noise.

While parties originally agreed to voluntary minimum flight altitudes of 2,500 feet and the establishment of a North Shore route to divert helicopters over the Long Island Sound, those recommendations have been largely ignored. Despite the voluntary agreement reached in 2007, the problem has become worse and residents continue to be subjected to deafening, foundation-rattling flyovers. Many of these flights are from New York City out to the East End of the Island and are for recreational or commercial purposes during the summer months. The helicopters have become an unfortunate irritant during the summer, but are also a constant presence throughout the entire year. These flights impact communities in countless ways, not the least of which is disruption of daily life, forcing people to stay inside during the summer, and reducing property values in impacted areas. 

Schumer’s office has been tracking complaints from residents since 2008 and shared the information with the FAA. Based on these verified complaints of non-compliance, Schumer requested the FAA examine making the voluntary regulations mandatory and enforceable. In December of 2009, Schumer, joined by Congressman Tim Bishop, held a meeting in his office with FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt and urged his agency to examine whether it was time to establish first-ever regulations to curb helicopters that fly low over Long Island communities. After a rigorous review process by expert FAA staff that examined the benefits to residents and failures of the voluntary regulations, the FAA has agreed that mandatory regulations are necessary to finally fix the noise problem experienced by Long Island residents.

The FAA plans to publish regulations on Monday and the public will be granted 30 days to issue comment on the regulations.“This is the year we start to bring unwanted helicopter noise to an end,” Schumer said. “Residents of Nassau and Suffolk have suffered under the roar of helicopters buzzing over their homes for far too long. The days of handshake agreements and cutting corners are over. Long Island families are going to be able to enjoy the summer barbecue season without the constant and incessant interruption of low-flying helicopters buzzing their homes and backyards.”