Gerald Silver, an outspoken activist who has thrust himself repeatedly into public debates on San Fernando Valley issues over the years, is trying to rearrange the routes that helicopters fly, to the annoyance of aviation officials and chopper pilots.
His opponents note that the approved routes Silver wants pilots to abandon are those that pass over Silver's own house leaving and approaching Van Nuys Airport.
"My company and other companies will not be told where we can fly by one man," said Nigel Turner, the president of Heli-L.A., a general helicopter service based at the airport.
The Federal Aviation Administration, which is responsible for managing air traffic, is equally concerned with Silver's suggestions.
"Those approaches, ingress and egress, are established in conjunction with airport management and the community," said Fred O'Donnell, an FAA spokesman in Lawndale. "If helicopter pilots choose to comply with what he's asking them to do, that's their business, but we're not closing that corridor because of him."
Silver contends that he is not alone, that he made the request as a leader of Stop The Noise!, a neighborhood anti-noise coalition. He said his request represents the wishes of nearly one dozen groups representing homeowners on the south side of the Ventura freeway who were excluded from a 1985 noise-control agreement on helicopter routes signed by community officials, airport management and the FAA.
His critics complain that Silver is trying to clear the air above his own home regardless of the impact on residents who live north of the freeway, who would experience a commensurate increase in helicopter traffic. Silver said that the fact that granting his request would route copters away from his own home had nothing to do with the request.
In a July letter sent to more than 60 helicopter operators at the Van Nuys Airport and other Southland sites, Silver writes: "We recommend that you use the Stagg-Saticoy, or track routes for virtually all your operations, because these routes take you over industrial areas."
In his letter, he told helicopter pilots that their radio communications would be monitored so his group could determine which companies were complying with his request. Jim Scher, marketing manager for Briles Helicopters, which is located at the airport, said Silver threatened to have his office picketed unless he complied.
Silver denies that.
Silver says he went to helicopter operators directly only because the Van Nuys Airport's Citizens Advisory Committee refused to consider his analysis of flight patterns at the airport, and made a deal to route all helicopter traffic toward residential neighborhoods south of the Sepulveda Basin.
Airport, FAA and helicopter executives say the route, one of six available for helicopter traffic, was chosen because it passes over a park and golf course, minimizing noise impacts on residences.
Silver said one helicopter operator, Helinet, is complying with his request. However, Helinet President Gary Farrell said his aircraft avoid the southern approach routes because of the nature of his business, not because of Silver's request. Almost all his flights go to downtown Los Angeles from the northwest corner of the airport, he said, and thus do not come near the southern approach and departure routes.
"I'm not agreeing with him about anything he's saying," Farrell said in a phone interview.