U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer has announced that a landmark agreement has been reached with the Eastern Region Helicopter Council, Inc., the trade group representing Long Island's helicopter industry, and East Hampton and Gabreski Airports to reduce helicopter noise over communities in Nassau and Suffolk, divert choppers away from populated areas, and encourage compliance with preferred noise abatement routes. The agreement, which comes in the form of a signed letter from the operators and airports to Senator Schumer, includes critical measures of compliance, reporting, oversight, pilot education, and community outreach, including public hotlines and websites where Long Island residents can report low-flying helicopters. Schumer said the agreement, along with a new route the FAA proscribed at Schumer's request, will help alleviate the disruptive impact of helicopter noise over Long Island communities next summer.
"For far too long, helicopter noise has been left to roar unabated over Long Island communities. This agreement will put a muzzle on that roar this summer and for many summers to come. By coming together, we have forged an accord that will provide much needed relief for Long Islanders, including the necessary checks and compliance measures to crack down on rogue operators who violate the rules," Schumer stated.
Schumer said that for nearly a decade the number of helicopters that fly over Long Island hamlets and villages has skyrocketed causing concern among many neighborhoods for their families' safety and livelihood. Most residents didn't know when they purchased their homes that these helicopters would fly so close to their communities.
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. While these helicopters have become an unfortunate irritant during the summer, they are also a constant presence throughout the entire year. Although most operators use voluntary routes designed to reduce the noise impact by avoiding noise sensitive areas, many helicopters are still flying over residential neighborhoods. 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.
This summer (May-August), Gabreski Airport saw 1,948 helicopter operations compared to 1,416 during the same period last year, an increase of 35.7 percent. East Hampton saw helicopter flights increase 15 percent this summer. Schumer's office has received at least 75 calls this year from constituents as well as call from elected officials reporting hundreds of calls their offices have received. Last year, East Hampton Airport received 4,000 complaint calls, of which 3,000 were for helicopter noise. Gabreski has sent out 79 letters to helicopter companies asking their cooperation with the airport's voluntary noise abatement procedures.
In October, 2007, Schumer convened a first-ever meeting of helicopter pilots, airport personnel, and the FAA to devise a plan to reduce helicopter noise. At Schumer's urging, the FAA created a new noise abatement route to divert pre-existing North Shore traffic miles away from land, over water, and at a recommended altitude of at least 2,500 feet. This plan will go into effect next summer.