House passes Schiff provision on helicopter noise

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a provision that is designed to reduce helicopter noise in the airspace over Los Angeles County, including the San Fernando Valley, where residents have complained about the noise for years.

The provision was part of a yearlong spending package, and it directs the Secretary of the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration to address helicopter noise in the county.

It was inserted in the spending package by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) in the House while his counterpart Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) made a similar introduction in the Senate.

The provision directs the FAA to establish a system of “best practices” that encourage voluntary compliance from police agencies, news-gathering organizations and private operators to fly helicopters at higher altitudes, maintain established flight paths and be more mindful of hovering practices that produce noise on the ground.

Schiff said on Wednesday that the Senate may take up the matter on Friday.

“One indication (of support) is it ended up getting more than 300 votes in the House. I think that guarantees passage in the Senate,” Schiff said.

Schiff said the provision directs the FAA to push those best practices and calls for mandatory regulation should the measures fail in a year’s time.

He said the practices will not keep police agencies or news-gathering organizations from doing their jobs.

“Particularly, law enforcement,” Schiff said. “They will do what they need to do. What (the bill) will do is mitigate the unnecessary helicopter noise impact. Tour operators over residential areas at low altitudes, we hope to change that behavior.”

Law enforcement agencies will be asked to make some changes, though.

“Not every flight is an emergency,” Schiff said. “In those cases, we’ll ask law enforcement to use existing flight paths. Some go from ‘A’ to ‘B’ to save on fuel costs. Everyone can contribute to the solution.”

He suggested news organizations pool their resources to reduce helicopter noise.

“We’ll press forward with this voluntary measure and, if not, then we’ll have to regulate them,” Schiff said.


Follow Tim Traeger on Twitter: @TraegerTim.


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