Schumer, Bishop: Successful Over-the-Water North Shore Helicopter Route Due To Expire in Early August

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Legislators call on FAA to renew rule & make it permanent, also to revise regs to curb helicopter noise over the North Fork.

Orient, NY - May 27, 2014 - U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and Congressman Tim Bishop urged the Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael Huerta to not only renew the North Shore over-the-water helicopter route that is set to expire at the beginning of August, but to make it permanent. They are also urging that the regulations be expanded to require that helicopters follow a total water route and go past Orient Point and Shelter Island when landing at South Fork airports. There are also a few problem areas in Nassau County that must be addressed, especially in the Town of North Hempstead.
 
Schumer and Bishop have long advocated for an over-the-water helicopter route on Long Island and after years of back and forth, the DOT finalized a rule in 2012 requiring helicopter operators along Long Island’s northern shoreline, between the VPLYD waypoint in Huntington and Riverhead, to use the North Shore helicopter route over the Long Island Sound. The successful two-year rule is set to expire early this August. With helicopter traffic set to increase dramatically following Memorial Day, Schumer and Bishop are urging the FAA to extend the rule beyond August, and revise it to ensure it goes around the North Fork, and avoids a few problem areas of the North Shore of Nassau County.
 
“For the last two years, residents on Long Island have finally had some relief from the onerous helicopter noise that once interrupted dinners, disrupted people enjoying their backyards and had an effect on property values throughout Long Island. However, the over-the-water North Shore Route that provided that long-sought relief is about to expire in early August, and we are urging that the FAA not only extend that rule but also make it permanent, so that thousands of residents are not back to square one when it comes to the deafening drone of helicopters,” said Senator Schumer. “What’s more, it’s critical that the FAA alter that route, so that helicopters landing on the South Fork must go around Orient Point and Shelter Island, creating a total water route.”
 
“It is imperative that the FAA continues to require helicopter pilots to utilize a route that travels over water rather than residential communities,” said Congressman Bishop.  “I strongly urge Secretary Foxx and Administrator Huerta to take the additional step of requiring these flights to travel around Orient Point and Shelter Island before landing, in order to further mitigate the impact.”
 
"As a result of the FAA's new helicopter route, which requires helicopters to fly a mile off-shore, Brookhaven residents contend with significantly less helicopter noise and can once again enjoy their backyards.  The establishment of this route was an important precedent set by the FAA and I fully support extending the route around the North Fork and making it permanent," said Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine. "I support Senator Schumer's efforts on this issue on behalf of Brookhaven's residents, whose quality of life had been ruined by helicopter noise during the summer months for far too long."
 
"The establishment of the North Shore helicopter route was instrumental because it demonstrated the FAA's ability to regulate an industry that previously had little oversight.  It is crucial that the FAA now build upon this first step and extend the current route past Orient Point so East End residents, on both the North and South Fork, are not inundated with the loud buzz of helicopters throughout the summer," said Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.  "I commend Senator Schumer and Congressman Bishop for their tireless efforts to mitigate helicopter noise on the East End.”
 
"As a Mount Sinai resident, I can attest first hand that the establishment of the North Shore route for helicopters successfully mitigated noise pollution in our community and dramatically improved our quality of life here on Suffolk's north shore.  On behalf of the residents of our community, I thank Senator Schumer and Congressman Bishop for their efforts," said Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker.
 
For nearly a decade, Schumer and Bishop’s offices have been inundated with constituents’ complaints about deafening helicopter noise. Schumer and Bishop have long advocated for solutions that would curb low-flying helicopters on Long Island. Since first being contacted about noise from low-flying helicopters on Long Island, Schumer and Bishop have worked with officials from the FAA, New York metropolitan area helicopter operators, and airport managers from Nassau and Suffolk Counties to establish solutions to eradicate onerous helicopter noise. While the parties originally agreed to voluntary regulations, the recommendations were largely ignored by the industry. The problem intensified and residents continued to suffer regular deafening, foundation-rattling flyovers.
 
Concerned with the industry’s and FAA’s implementation of those voluntary regulations, Schumer introduced and passed legislation in February 2011 that was included in the Senate version of the FAA Reauthorization Bill. Senator Jay Rockefeller, Chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and the Senate Majority fought hard to include the Schumer legislation in the conference report, but were blocked by the Republican-led House, at the industry’s behest.
 
In 2012, Schumer and Bishop successfully pushed the Department of Transportation to finalize and publish regulations that mandate over-water routes for helicopters flying on the North Shore. The “North Shore Route” states that, unless otherwise authorized, each helicopter operating along Long Island’s northern shoreline between the VPLYD waypoint in Huntington and Orient Point must fly one mile off the north shore for the purpose of noise abatement in residential areas. Pilots may deviate from these requirements when required for safety, weather conditions or transitioning to or from a destination or point of landing. If pilots don’t follow the rules, they can be subject to monetary penalties or have license revoked. That pilot rule was instituted in 2012 and will expire on August 6, 2014.
 
In 2013, the Helicopter Association International (HAI) challenged the authority of the FAA to issue the “North Shore Route” in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The federal court denied HAI’s petition for review and therefore, the FAA has the authority and reasonable expectation to protect Long Islanders from low-flying helicopter noise.
 
The North Shore Route has been very successful and has lessened the impact of seasonal helicopter traffic on a number of Long Island communities.  The route requires helicopters to fly one mile from the shore over the Long Island Sound while traveling along the North Shore of Suffolk County. As the route currently stands, there is an issue with the North Shore Route when helicopters cross land on the North Fork in order to land at South Fork airports. Schumer and Bishop are urging the FAA to require helicopters continue over water and go around Orient Point to address this concern.
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