In his letter, Mr. Stanley L. Ronell one again voiced his concerns about helicopters flying over Port Washington. He objects to my characterization in a previous letter of his complaints as ridiculous and I stand by that description. Now Dr. Geoffrey Gordon, superintendent of schools, has added his voice to support Mr. Ronell. As much as I respect Dr. Gordon and his efforts to maintain the high standards of education in Port, his fears about helicopter traffic are simply unfounded.
I don't know what qualifies either of these gentlemen to pass judgment about air traffic safety but let me just say that I am a professional Industrial Designer, holding three engineering degrees. I have been an aircraft enthusiast my whole life and am president of a local radio control model aircraft club that flies in Port Washington. I have designed aircraft for over 30 years and know a bit more than the average person about aerodynamics.
I know Mr. Ronell doesn't like to let facts get in the way of his opinions, but let's look at a few facts. First of all, I simply do not believe that the windows on Mr. Ronell's home rattle when a helicopter flies overhead. If that is true, have your windows repaired; the problem is there, not in the air. I live less than a half-mile from Mr. Ronell and my windows certainly do not rattle when helicopters fly overhead. In my 30 years of living in Port, I have never been awakened by a helicopter, nor disturbed in any way by its noise. My three were educated here and my two grandchildren are in the schools now. None of them have ever had a class disturbed by helicopter noise.
While a crash of any aircraft flying overhead is certainly possible, helicopters are the safest of all aircraft in that regard. When a fixed wing aircraft loses engine power, there is very little time to pick a spot to crash land, but a helicopter is capable of a maneuver called auto-rotation. This basically is allowing the roter to free wheel while the aircraft descends, providing considerable lift and slowing the descent to what may be a bumpy landing, but controlled indeed. Personally, I would rather have a helicopter in trouble overhead, than a fixed wing aircraft.
The FAA requires that helicopters fly at least 1,100 feet above populated areas and I have never seen a helicopter violate that restriction in Port, with the exception of police helicopters and medical emergency helicopters. I stand by what I said in an earlier letter, "there simply is no helicopter menace in Port Washngton."