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Helicopters lose challenge to FAA route rule

Helicopter pilots ferrying passengers to the Hamptons lost their challenge to a Federal Aviation Administration rule requiring them to use a route a mile off the North Shore.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington Friday rejected a bid by the Helicopter Association International Inc. to overturn an FAA rule requiring helicopters to take the route over the Long Island Sound after North Shore residents complained about noise from chopper traffic.

Pilots preferred to fly overland along the North Shore because it was faster and weather delays were less common, according to court documents. After complaints from residents, local governments, citizen groups, businesses and trade associations, the FAA made the route mandatory in 2012, with exceptions for weather and helicopters not adequately equipped for it.

Pilots who violate the rule face an unspecified civil penalty or suspension or revocation of their licenses.

The FAA found that North Shore residents "emphatically agreed that helicopter overflights during the summer months are unbearable and negatively impact their quality of life," according to the decision.

In rejecting the helicopter pilots' challenge, U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Roberts said that the FAA acted within its authority.

The FAA has the power to "set standards to measure aircraft noise and to prescribe regulations to control and abate aircraft noise" as well as to make rules "to protect individuals and property on the ground," Roberts wrote in the unanimous opinion.

"That is exactly what the FAA did here," he said.

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