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Orange : Helicopter Noise Study Points at National Guard

A study of helicopter noise in the city, prompted by residents’ complaints that began in earnest when flights were stepped up during the Olympics, has concluded that the main source is the California National Guard, which operates a fleet of 100 helicopters out of the Los Alamitos Armed Forces Reserve Center.

However, National Guard Col. Daniel Hernandez said he doesn’t believe there are that many flights over Orange and that pilots have been instructed to fly higher patterns to reduce the noise. He said alternatives such as rerouting flights or use of flight simulators are being studied but the military’s top priority is to maintain its level of training.

Simulator training could “reduce the number of flights from 15% to 20%, which I think is significant,” he said, “but that doesn’t always satisfy some of the residents.” He admitted that part of the problem is that the type of helicopters the Guard uses is among the loudest.

The cities of Orange, Anaheim, Tustin, Los Alamitos, Cypress, Garden Grove and Villa Park have been invited to meet with Rep. William Dannemeyer (R-Fullerton) this week to discuss the issue. However, said Dave Ellis, a spokesman for the congressman, “Everyone seems to be picking on the military right now and we don’t want to do that until we have a good data base.”

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Residents had been encouraged to report noisy flights to a special phone line set up for the study and the results were compared with flight schedules of private, commercial and military helicopters. Private flights were found to be minimal and the only significant commercial carrier flying over the city is Med Air, an emergency medical transport service of Western Medical Center in Santa Ana.

The National Guard flights were found to be the source of most of the complaints. “The optimal solution,” said Mayor Jim Beam, “would be to reroute the military helicopters on a course which takes them over uninhabited areas of the county.”

A spokesman for Dannemeyer said he will continue to meet with military as well as Orange and Anaheim officials in an attempt to work out an equitable solution.


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