On Aug. 6, the long-awaited day arrived for hopeful residents of the North Fork — a new FAA restriction was to take effect, mandating that helicopters operating along Long Island’s northern shoreline between Orient Point and Huntington must use the North Shore Helicopter Route over Long Island Sound rather than fly over communities like Mattituck and Peconic, which has been the practice for years.
When the first helicopter flew over at 6:56 a.m. on that day, startling the sleeping residents of Peconic, there was communal disbelief — is this voluntary compliance? No, this is mandatory compliance.
Phone calls flooded Sen. Schumer's Long Island offices and to add to the discord, the first response was an unanswered phone. Subsequent calls went out to the Senator's Washington and then New York office and finally, the Long Island office responded. Marissa, at that office, insisted that the new route was to initiate on the 6th and there was no knowledge on the Senator's part of any aboration to the newly imposed rules. A phone number contact to the Federal Aviation Administration was designated, 718 553-3365. It is a recorded line with no subsequent response.
Chris Dancy of the Helicopter Association International, spoke of the commercial associations general displeasure with this new rule and the costs of fuel and time that it would impose, saying that there would be more noise complaints, not fewer.
This required further investigation and a call went out to Dan Hubbard of the FAA who referred callers to Laura Brown, Deputy Assistant Administrator, at the FAA, 202 267-3455. Her e-mail respose was,
"I wasn't able to find out the status of your complaints today because several people were not in the office. I can tell you that we do forward some reports to our inspectors to follow up if there is enough information to look into it. We have civil enforcement authority and can levy civil penalties if we conclude there was a violation of our regulations."
With eyes and ears to the skies, it is now up to the residents to aid in the enforcement of this new restriction — which is supposed to limit flight paths over the North Fork. Only the people of the North Fork can act upon, speak to and report the violations. The future is in their hands; your hands.
It is now 10:50 a.m. and non-compliance was noted occurring at 9:43, 9:45, 10:08 and 10:32. It is going to be a long day.