WASHINGTON — Years of complaints about noise from helicopters shuttling well-to-do New Yorkers between the city and the Hamptons have led to new restrictions this month on helicopter traffic over Long Island — possibly offering a political lesson to Los Angeles residents seeking similar relief.
“Long Island will not continue to be the Wild West for low-flying, disruptive and noisy helicopters,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., declared earlier this year.
The restrictions do not appear to worry Stratford-based Sikorsky Aircraft, which makes the S-92 and S-76, both popular VIP helicopters.
“We do not expect this restriction to affect our sales, though it can certainly add significant cost for people relying on helicopter transportation in that area,” said Paul Jackson, a spokesman for Sikorsky. “We have been, and continue to be, sensitive to noise concerns and to work to abate them. The brand new S-76D helicopter, which is scheduled to certify in October, is designed to operate significantly quieter than its predecessors. And while we understand the noise objections by some people on Long Island, channeling all helicopter traffic onto a single route could present new issues.”
But there is a concern within the industry as other helicopter industry officials are warning that the Long Island rules requiring multiengine helicopters to fly off the island’s north shore at an altitude of at least 2,500 feet could lead to similar restrictions in other regions. The rules took effect Aug. 6.
And the Long Island rules have rejuvenated efforts in California.
California lawmakers have been watching the controversy unfold on Long Island because their attempts to pass congressional legislation to regulate helicopters in Los Angeles have stalled in the face of industry opposition. The Federal Aviation Administration controls air space rules.
The Long Island restrictions were mandated by the FAA, not a new federal law.
Long Islanders have long complained about the noise, especially from what one resident called “flying limousines.” Such helicopters can cost $3,000 and more to charter for a 45-minute flight between Manhattan and the spiffy getaways on the eastern end of the island. And the air ferries can make as many as 500 trips on one weekend.
“It’s not like a few helicopters fly low over your home and your yard, scaring children and pets, shaking cupboards, interrupting conversations and TV,” one resident wrote the FAA. “It is many, many, often one right after the other on Friday nights, Saturday morning, Sunday evenings and Monday mornings.”
Under the new rule, multiengine helicopters, excluding fire, police and medevac aircraft, must fly over Long Island Sound. Deviations can be made “when necessary for safety, weather, or when transitioning to or from a point of landing.