Long Island helicopter rule could set dangerous precedent

June 22, 2010

If the FAA moves forward with plans to implement a New York North Shore Helicopter Route, communities across the country could line up asking for similar routes to force pilots around the outskirts of their town limits. That’s because it appears the agency is proposing the new route based solely on a few noise complaints.

After the FAA denied AOPA’s earlier request to extend the comment period on the proposed route, the association is pressing the FAA to produce an environmental and operational analysis that justifies the proposed rule.

“As we have already seen through evidence of neighboring communities calling for restrictions of flight routes, every local community and municipality will likely fall in line to have rulemaking mandate VFR routes away from their neighborhoods,” wrote Heidi Williams, AOPA senior director of airspace and modernization, in formal comments to the FAA. “If the agency continues to issue routing modifications without data and evidence to support routing changes, we will soon be restricted from operating over all land masses and any populated areas.”

The proposed route would force helicopters transiting Long Island to fly offshore. AOPA is concerned that the route does not provide guidance on altitudes or specify altitudes for helicopters transiting the area in opposite directions.

“We strongly recommend that the FAA abandon this rulemaking in lieu of a more refined and thought out approach to mitigating local noise concerns,” Williams concluded.

Because of the negative precedent this route could establish, AOPA encourages all pilots to comment on the proposed rule. The Eastern Region Helicopter Council has created a Web page to help pilots create their response. Those using the Web service must file their comments by June 24. While the deadline for submitting comments through the regulations.gov website is June 25, the FAA may accept late arrivals for a couple of days. Identify Docket No. FAA-2010-0302, Notice No. 10-08.