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LOS ANGELES ( MAYORS & CITIES ) — Whump. Whump. Whump. It sounds like you’re scouring the jungles searching for Viet Cong as U.S. combat helicopters swoop over you drowning out all noise but the roar of their spinning blades. Except this isn’t Vietnam. It’s Los Angeles and the rest of L.A. County that seem to be under air assault by a constant stream of helicopters flying overhead at 1, 2 or 3 a.m. almost nightly.
Police, fire and news helicopters penetrate the quiet night air with their buzzing overhead, while during the day add the roar of helicopters filled with tourists as they hover over landmark sites. And, actually, not so far overhead. At our place, I’m praying the screens will keep one of the choppers from flying through the windows into the bedroom, that’s how close they are. But I don’t think prayers are the answer.
Even the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which operates the famous Hollywood Bowl, is frustrated by the constant helicopters. Their whirring noise from the birds flying overhead drowns out the melodic sounds of nearly every concert, leaving music lovers fuming. But there may be hope on the noisy horizon.
Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys) has introduced a bill, HR 2677, that would mandate the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) set requirements for helicopter flight paths, altitudes and noise pollution. L.A. Councilmember Tom LaBonge has been pressing the full City Council to throw its support behind Berman’s bill, but so far it has languished in the Information Technology and Governmental Relations Committee.
However, relief may also come in the form of the Los Angeles Chief Legislative Analyst on helicopter legislation and its endorsement by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, leading LaBonge to try to move his resolution for consideration before the full City Council by the end of the year.
Berman’s bill is officially called the Los Angeles Residential Helicopter Noise Relief Act of 2011. It would force the FAA to restrict flight paths and set minimum altitudes within 12 months. Police, fire and military helicopters would be exempted in cases of emergencies.
“Residents deserve relief from the thunderous clacking of helicopter blades hovering directly over their homes and instead all they’ve been getting is the runaround from government agencies,” Berman said. “The buck stops here because it is simply unacceptable for residents to be forced to contend with these brazen helicopter operators on their own. This bill requires the regulations that will give residents the relief and increased safety they are so desperately looking for.”
Berman’s bill is modeled on a similar amendment Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) integrated into an FAA authorization bill covering helicopter flights in Long Island. The Berman bill is limited to L.A. County “because of the extraordinary number of helicopters operating in the skies above L.A.”
“With such a large number of helicopters jockeying for a limited amount of airspace, it’s only a matter of time before we have a serious accident or worse,” Berman said. ”I fully understand the concerns about my legislation that have been expressed by the FAA, the helicopter industry, and others.
“But the status quo is simply not acceptable to my constituents.”