Written by Joe Scotchie Friday, 09 December 2011 00:00
Port Washington resident Len Schaier has been a hawk when it comes to possible noise increases from new flight patterns over Long Island. Recently, Schaier, who is the chief organizer behind Citizens for Quiet Skies Over North Hempstead, predicted that any new noise problems would come, at first, from landing patterns. And now, he claims that is just exactly what is happening.
In an email that Schaier sent to the Federal Aeronautics Aviation (FAA) earlier this month, he claimed that there has been a “dramatic increase in commercial aircraft noise since Oct. 20 here in the Town of North Hempstead.”
“While I believe that the new takeoff routing of itself has not yet impacted noise in North Hempstead, the new landing patterns seems to be having a dramatic effect on overall aircraft noise levels,” the email continued. “With airliners now flying as low as 1,900 feet over North Hempstead, we now have their noise in addition to the noise from helicopters and fixed wind GA aircraft. And while helicopter and GA aircraft traffic is lower during this time of year, if the new patterns are in effect in the spring and summer, the helicopters will be at our rooftops.”
Schaier said complaints about increased helicopter noise have come from Town of North Hempstead residents, many of whom learned about his organization through previous articles in various editions of Anton Community Newspapers, plus other media sources. Schaier added that the noise problem got worse in late October as soon as the new flight patterns began taking effect.
More specifically, the noise problem has to do with aircraft landings and how they may affect helicopter flight patterns. Schaier made available computer printouts illustrating incoming flights to both LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy Airports. On Thursday, Oct. 20, an aircraft heading towards a landing at JFK was flying at 1,900 ft. over North Hills. A month later, on Saturday, Nov. 20, an aircraft heading for a landing at LaGuardia was flying at 2,000 ft. over Sands Point.
Schaier’s concern for residents of the North Shore, but especially those in Great Neck and Port Washington that such low altitude flights might block out helicopter flights. Consequently, the helicopter flights might have “to go someplace else,” that is; they would have to fly at lower altitudes themselves.
In addition, Schaier is concerned that once a “NEXT GEN’ technology is put in place, aircraft will be allowed to fly closer together, which in turn, would make their landings at any level louder and “more intense.”
Through computer technology, Schaier can track the altitude of flights taking off or landing at LaGuardia Airport. More specifically, one can google “Passur LGA,” go to the section for paths over LaGuardia Airport and determine the altitude of flights. Right from the beginning, Schaier has maintained that helicopter noise would be a main concern. In early November, he said that the Eastern Regional Helicopter Council has agreed that all helicopter flights stay at least 2,500 ft. in the air when flying over water areas, such as the approach to LaGuardia Airport. But changing altitude levels of aircraft flights may change all that.
Schaier has also found legislation that he believes addresses the problem. HR 2677 is a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, one co-sponsored by Reps. Brad Sherman, Adam Schiff, and Henry Waxman, all Democrats from California. That bill, Schaier notes, is a response to helicopter noise in Los Angeles County. It is also similar to legislation in the U.S. Senate, SA 71, a bill introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer (D. -NY). Schaier added that the prospects for both bills look bleak at the moment: SA 71 has no corresponding bill in the House (HR 2677 addresses the skies over Los Angeles County). As Schaier states, it is also “languishing there along with the overall FAA reauthorization bill.”
The offices of Rep. Gary Ackerman (D.-Flower Hill) note that H.R. 2677 would direct the FAA to issue regulations to reduce helicopter noise in Los Angeles. And so, the bill, Rep. Ackerman’s spokesman said, only applies to that area.
At the same time, Rep. Ackerman “strongly supports” Sen. Schumer’s proposed legislation and according to his office, “will continue to advocate that it be enacted into law.” Over the summer, Congressman Ackerman sent a letter to the House and Senate Transportation Committees expressing his strong support for the measure.
“As you work to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act, H.R. 658, I urge you to retain S.AMDT 71,” said the letter, addressed to the chairmen of the House and Senate Infrastructure Committees.
“This amendment would give the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) the explicit legal authority to regulate helicopter noise on Long Island. The amendment would also require the FAA to implement regulations for helicopter flight paths on Long Island within one year of the enactment of the bill.
“My Congressional District, which includes parts of Queens and Nassau Counties along the North Shore of Long Island—one of the main routes for helicopters—has endured excessive noise from low-flying helicopters for many years. The disquieting noise from these helicopters has negatively impacted the quality of life for scores of my constituents.
“Accordingly, I respectfully request that you strongly advocate to the conference committee to retain the amendment to give the FAA regulatory authority over helicopters on Long Island in the final conference report. FAA regulation of these helicopters would greatly reduce the noise pollution over my district and the rest of Long Island,” the letter concluded.
In the meantime, Schaier advises residents to dial 311 if they’re bothered by any aircraft noise they haven’t heard before and to mention the time and the circumstances. In addition to helicopters, Quiet Skies will continue to monitor the sounds of regular jets, to present the facts to both the public and the FAA. “Data is king,” Schaier said.