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OPINION: Mandatory Helicopter Route Over the Sound Begins - Or Has It?

Aug. 6 marks the end to the assault on the senses of the sound of helicopter rotors beating the residents of the North Fork senseless. Sen. Charles Schumer took the lead and has caused the FAA to restructure the skies overhead.

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.

PEGGY TONER August 12, 2012 at 10:52 PM
Mattituck near Peconic Bay-- the windows of my home continue to rattle as the choppers pass overhead..............
harold gordon August 13, 2012 at 12:54 PM
Oh yes,,choppers are still coming over my house on Soundview Ave in Mattituck and at a lower altitude than usual. Going East, they fly over the "Green" belt parallel to Oregon Road. Coming from the west,They are coming from Southeast and turning over my home towards the Sound, We are 90 feet above the beach and I'd say the chopper was about 200 feet above the bluff as it passed over, Even the birds are disturbed. As I understand the rule, the route is AROUND Orient Point and up the MIDDLE of the Sound. Anyone who can afford to pay for the Helicopter service can well afford to pay a fuel supplement to cover the cost the new route may impose. As for the 5-10 minutes of additional travel time, well, gee, that's might result in one less glass of Champagne the passengers will have time to enjoy when they reach their destination. I feel for them. What a waste time and tax payer's dollars for Shumer's and Bishop's staff to have to address these calls.
Jonathan Baker August 13, 2012 at 02:56 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efQAMwgF7kM http://www.federalregisterwatch.com/Item/FAA/2012-16667/the-new-york-north-shore-helicopter-route My understanding, after watching this video and reading the FAA Ruling, is that eastbound helicopters will fly 3/4 mile off-shore at a minimum of 2500 feet elevation or in 100 foot odd increments above that elevation. Helicopters flying westbound will fly 1 1/4 miles off-shore at a minimum of 2500 feet elevation or in 100 foot even increments above that elevation. The route begins 20 miles northeast of La Guardia airport (Visual Point Lloyd Harbor) and extends all the way to Orient Point. I gather that at some point along this route, the helicopters will be allowed to fly inland to their destination on the south shore, I assume maintaining their altitude until they reach their destination. Also, helicopters that do not carry floatation devices, and those whose auto-rotation distance (when experiencing engine failure) limit their distance from shore, are exempt from adhering to the new rule. My question is: how will this new flight rule change flight patterns over Mattituck and the surrounding area? I don't see how things will change. It's still going to be noisy. What should be done is for all helicopters to retrofit the new, low-noise, rotor blades. THAT would reduce noise significantly!
harold gordon August 13, 2012 at 03:27 PM
Yes! If and when they muffle their noise we can muffle ours! As far as floatation devices, It should be mandatory for aircraft to have them if flying over water routes..not make exemptions for those who do not! All the helicopters could jettison their flotation devices and thus avoid the new flight paths. The aircaft should comply, not the other way around. It must be a lucrative business to fly out to the east end for these choppers, otherwise they wouldn't be in business. Retrofitting and adding floatation devices will be a part of doing business...and just like the airlines, they can pass the cost to their (well heeled) passengers.
Brad Berthold August 13, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Informative presentation of the rules. I might have missed it, but where do the rules say the helicopter route must be flown all the way to the eastern end (Orient Point) before turning south? It seems most of the noise complaints stem from helicopters making the turn south over North Fork to land at East Hampton Airport.
Jonathan Baker August 13, 2012 at 08:26 PM
I agree with every one of your points!
Anita Law August 24, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Ah ha. I knew I read somewhere that there was a new rule and that the north fork would be a no fly zone, but I kept hearing, including this morning. This prompted me to see when the deadline was... Right. This is a good refresher on the lesson, if you have money, you are above the law.
harold gordon August 24, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Friday AUGUST 24!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It's still going on and on. I'm dreading today. Send your emails stating your concerns to Laura.J.Brown@FAA.gov

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