A Continuing Crescendo: National Media Tackles Helicopter Noise

A helicopter over Los Angeles, as seen from The Getty

Helicopter noise in Los Angeles is now in the national spotlight, leading to a story in the New York Times about the introduction of federal legislation to require the FAA to establish rules on flight paths and minimum altitudes over residential areas.

The conversation was re-ignited after the four-part "Helicopter Hella Loud" series ran on KCET website and LeimertParkBeat.com.

The Times followed with this amazing interview by Adam Nagourney in light of two media events that put dozens and dozens of whirlybirds above LA -- the 405's Carmegeddon and the royal visit:

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This is, for all intents and purposes, an unregulated industry, an increasingly frustrating realization for Los Angeles as it experiences what many people say is the most intense period of helicopter use in memory. One neighborhood leader said he was afraid of complaining too loudly for fear that the helicopter operators would retaliate -- legally -- by parking over his house.


"See how we are flapping right now?" said Esteban Jimenez, a pilot for Hollywood Helicopter Tours, as his four-passenger Robinson R44 Raven II circled at an unnerving 90-degree angle, barely 100 feet over houses below. "That is upsetting everybody. We are at a safe enough distance. But it makes people really upset. I get calls all the time."

Mr. Jimenez kept his helicopter, its blades thumping the air, eye-level with the Hollywood sign.

"People don't understand what's really going on," he said. "They really can't do anything. I could buzz you as long as I keep my distance. We are legal. They don't control the air space. These are the things we have to do to make a living."

That led to a Los Angeles Times story, in which the level of chopper traffic was called ridiculous by Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Valley Village), who introduced legislation in July targeting helicopters, requiring the FAA to establish rules on flight paths and minimum altitudes. "We've been getting lots of complaints," Berman told the LA Times reporters Richard Simon and Kate Mather. Chopper traffic has reached the "ridiculous point."

Similar legislation by Sen. Chuck Schumer was passed in the Senate, but did not make the FAA reauthorization that became law last week.

INFOGRAPHIC: Click here to launch "Helicopter Noise Reduction by Altitude" by Brian Frank

"It's not just an occasional nuisance; helicopters are now one of the city's worst noise polluters," The L.A. Daily News wrote in an editorial earlier this month.

Berman's legislation would not exempt law enforcement from any new rules, which is the main point of contention for many residents of the city. And the mainstream outlets for the most part did not address this issue.

The New York Times did point out there are 18 police helicopters -- at least two are in the air at any moment -- six fire department choppers and 17 Sheriff's Department helicopters.

The LAPD said that pursuing dangerous criminals isn't the helicopter's priority. The helicopter - and its pervasive and widespread noise - can deter crime. The LAPD helicopter regularly goes on calls that are not what most people would consider serious, such as vandalism.

Kattie Kauffman did an excellent report for KCBS on the issue.

But considering all the media coverage--some which use the very helicopters that exasperate residents--none asked the question, "What is my news outlet going to do about this problem?"

The photo used on this post is by Flickr user Dittmeyer. It was used under a Creative Commons License.

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