House passes historic FAA legislation

Photo credit: Marina Hinic

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

When the U.S. Senate passed the Federal Aviation Authority Reauthorization Bill last week, we learned that Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz (D) included a provision that would address air tour noise in Hawaii, making the tours safer and less noisy. Two days ago, the bill passed the House of Representatives. The bill provides for more than $100 billion to the FAA and over $730 million to the National Transportation Safety Board for safety programs, infrastructure projects and more.

To carry out the aims of the provision, the FAA was directed to work with an air noise and safety task force in Hawaii. This article on the Vertical website pointed out that there was a high number of fatalities from air tour crashes. Thus, there is no question that it’s necessary to examine the safety of air tours.

This article notes that the government needs to find ways to reduce disruptions that air tours cause residents. I would personally add that “disruptions” is a mild term to describe how helicopter noise affects people on the ground. The nonprofit Stop the Chop NY/NJ, working toward reducing non-essential helicopters, would agree with me.

Stop the Chop has been especially active in New York City and is strongly supporting a New York City Council bill to restrict non-essential, non-electric helicopters at heliports owned or managed by the city. Considering that cities are allowed to limit helicopter use, I wonder why Sen. Schatz felt it was necessary to include a provision in the FAA Reauthorization Bill to limit helicopter use in his state. It could be that using a federal bill to do so would unlock more funding. 

The FAA generally gets involved in the aviation noise issue by conducting surveys that ask “how annoying is aircraft noise” or by sending representatives to local community roundtables to learn how bothersome aircraft noise is to residents. So, I would like to know how the FAA will respond with regard to this new noise provision. The agency is being asked to make air tours less noisy and this would necessitate action, not just acknowledging the problem. Stay tuned!

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