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L.A. County backs federal restriction of low-flying helicopters

November 8, 2011 |  5:33 pm

Some homeowners around the closed section of the 405 freeway were complaining about the helicopter noise during this summer's construction along the 405 freeway. Credit: Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles TimesLow-flying helicopters are becoming a nuisance, and federal authorities should restrict how low they can fly in Los Angeles County, the  Board of Supervisors said Tuesday.

Citing persistent helicopter noise from flights carrying tourists, paparazzi and news reporters, the supervisors voted 4-0 to support H.R. 2677, a bill by Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys). The measure permits the Federal Aviation Administration to order that helicopters fly at a higher altitude in Los Angeles County. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas was absent for the vote.

Westside and San Fernando Valley Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who wrote the motion, said there have recently been a proliferation of low-flying helicopters. Some carry tourists over the Hollywood Bowl during classical music concerts, drowning out solo acts.

"The problem has been a growing one, a festering one, where helicopters increasingly fly over people's homes at very low altitudes … especially in the hills," Yaroslavsky said in an interview. He noted that some fly as low as 300 feet above ground. "It's extremely disruptive."

He said pilots ignore spotlights that warn helicopters to avoid the Bowl. "They don't care. They ignore it," Yaroslavsky said. He also said it's also a safety issue -– if a chopper loses a rotor blade and crashes into the amphitheater, "then you're going to have politicians all over the country saying this is outrageous, we should do something about this."

The tipping point was intense helicopter noise this summer during the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's visit to L.A. and the Carmageddon closure of the 405 Freeway over one weekend. Yaroslavsky said the choppers "were just hovering over these residential neighborhoods for just hours at time, driving people crazy."

He said news helicopters "are entitled to monitor news events, but they don't have a right, in my opinion … to fly very low. You get your pictures at a relatively high altitude," Yaroslavsky said. "There's no reason to descend so low that you're disrupting everybody else's life."

The L.A.-based Professional Helicopter Pilots Assn. voiced opposition to the legislation in August. In a statement, it said that “imposing restrictions on the available airspace, altitudes and routing for helicopters” could unintentionally jam aircraft closer together.

“This could substantially decrease safety when many different aircraft types, which travel at different speeds, are no longer separated but are pushed closer together in the airspace,” the group said.


Berman proposes helicopter noise law

Copter fight kicks up dust in West Hollywood

Helicopters annoying but 'perfectly safe,' FAA says

-- Rong-Gong Lin II at the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration

Photo: Some homeowners around the closed section of the 405 Freeway were complaining about the helicopter noise during this summer's Carmageddon closure. Credit: Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times