Almost six months after Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) and other Los Angeles area lawmakers, including Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), sent a letter asking for a timeline to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s Los Angeles Helicopter Noise Initiative, the agency finally responded to the Los Angeles lawmakers (letter can be found here). This comes on the heels of legislation passed last month requiring the FAA to act within the year to reduce helicopter noise through voluntary measures, or be forced to put in place regulations to reduce it.
However, in their answer, the FAA did not produce a timeline for action, and instead of studying the entire Los Angeles basin, designated small study areas – Torrance, Hollywood and the Cahuenga Pass – that are not sufficient to understand the full problem affecting homeowners and businesses. Additionally, instead of designing and implementing a helicopter noise complaint reporting system, the FAA is requiring the homeowners, helicopter operators and other stakeholders to identify a system themselves – something that volunteer members of homeowner and pilot associations do not have the technical expertise to accomplish on their own. Finally, the lack of more meaningful progress to date and the indeterminate timeline going forward indicate the FAA is very unlikely to meet its statutory deadline of progress by the end of the year.
“While I appreciate the engagement that the FAA has had with stakeholders in Los Angeles, it’s progress in bringing about relief to residents has been painfully and unacceptably slow,” said Rep. Schiff. “By law, the FAA will be required to regulate helicopter noise if they cannot demonstrate the success of voluntary measures by the end of the year. The ‘timeline’ just released by the FAA casts great doubt on their ability to do so, and makes it far more likely regulation will be required.”
“The Los Angeles Area Helicopter Noise Coalition has been working diligently with the FAA and helicopter pilots and operators to find ways to reduce helicopter noise across Los Angeles,” said Bob Anderson, President of the Los Angeles Area Helicopter Noise Coalition (LAAHNC), and Richard Root, the coalition’s vice president. “While the FAA’s letter to congressional leaders states that ‘good progress has been made …’, the reality is that a number of meetings have been held without much real progress being made. The community has offered many suggestions for tangible solutions to reduce noise, but the FAA and pilots have not embraced these due to cost and other concerns.”
Last year, Schiff and other members of the Los Angeles delegation introduced legislation, the Los Angeles Residential Helicopter Noise Relief Act, and encouraged the FAA to act independently of legislation to reduce helicopter noise in Los Angeles. Following a lengthy study, the FAA released their report on the Los Angeles airspace, urging voluntary measures over a regulatory approach, which many homeowners and lawmakers felt was an insufficient response.
Senator Feinstein and Rep. Schiff successfully included language in the omnibus spending bill, which was signed into law, that would require the FAA to develop regulations related to the impact of helicopter use on the quality of life of LA County residents within one year unless the FAA can demonstrate the effectiveness of the six voluntary action items in the helicopter noise report. Efforts to include language in the omnibus were supported by the LAHNC.
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