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Long IslandNassau

Helicopter group's LI aircraft noise plan

Helicopters arriving and departing at the East Hampton

Helicopters arriving and departing at the East Hampton Town Airport in Wainscott, NY. (Oct. 14, 2007) Credit: Gordon M. Grant

A helicopter pilots group has developed its own plan to mitigate noise over North Shore communities by dispersing flights over land and water, but federal officials dismissed the proposal, maintaining that helicopters should fly over only water.

The Eastern Region Helicopter Council unveiled its 2012 mitigation plan last week during a meeting of the Town/Village Aircraft Safety and Noise Abatement Committee, which represents communities throughout Nassau County affected by aircraft noise.

The plan calls for helicopters to use different routes over land and Long Island Sound in an effort to decrease noise levels in the Great Neck, Port Washington and Glen Cove areas.

The council used an elaborate complaint management system to pinpoint where noise problems originated and set their routes to reduce noise over some areas, said Robert Grotell, special adviser to the helicopter council.

Flying only over water would unsafely concentrate helicopters in narrow routes, council officials said.

They want to start the plan by Memorial Day, when tourist season on the East End starts and helicopter flights to places such as the Hamptons increase, Grotell said.

Some Nassau residents at the committee meeting praised the council's plan.

"This plays a critical role in improving the quality of life for communities located under helicopter flight paths," said Mary-Grace Tomecki, a Floral Park Village trustee. "You not only hear it, you feel it."

Leonard Schaier of Port Washington, who has long monitored helicopter noise over the North Shore and pushed for abatement efforts, supports the council's plan as it affects North Hempstead. He said helicopter "rumblings tend to vibrate the home. It is extremely disturbing and sometimes can knock dishes off shelves."

But the Federal Aviation Administration is developing rules to require helicopters over Long Island to fly entirely offshore.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood reignited regulation efforts in February, saying the rule would be in place by July 4. That timetable is still on track, according to Sen. Charles Schumer's office.

"The bottom line is our regulation will force helicopters to fly over water and their [the pilot council's] plan will have them fly over land," Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement Wednesday. "We asked them five years ago to work with us to protect Long Island residents from the incessant noise of low-flying helicopters and they failed to do that."

Schumer unsuccessfully sought to include helicopter noise abatement measures in the FAA reauthorization bill.


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