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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Rotorcraft Report: Romaine Fights Helicopter Noise Levels

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New Yorkers flying helicopters to the Hamptons, Long Island, take note: Despite losing a vote in the Suffolk County Legislature, Legislator Edward Romaine is determined to force aircraft to fly at least 2,500 feet over Suffolk County.

"The problem is people flying their Sikorskys and other large helicopters from New York heliports to the Hamptons over our heads," said Romaine’s Legislative Aide Bill Faulk in an exclusive interview with Rotor & Wing. "These helicopters are loud, they’re big and they’re there!"

Romaine’s bill was voted down in mid-December, 2008. The tally was eight lawmakers in favor, nine opposed and one abstention. Opposition was fueled by the argument "...the county was pre-empted by the federal government in regulating air traffic," according to a report in the Southhampton Press. "That has been the argument of an official of the Federal Aviation Administration, a representative of the Eastern Regional Helicopter Council and helicopter pilots who have testified before the legislature."

Romaine himself doesn’t buy this argument, citing laws in New York City and New York State that limit operational altitudes for helicopters as precedents. "This is not going to go away," he told the Suffolk County Legislature after his bill’s defeat. Bill Faulk agreed: "We are reviewing the bill and are considering refiling it," he told Rotor & Wing. "When we do, the many residents of Suffolk County affected by this constant helicopter traffic will attend public hearings to make their concerns clearly known."

According to Romaine’s defeated bill, "low-flying helicopters have become a public nuisance in Suffolk County". Moreover, a voluntary agreement brokered Congressman Tim Bishop and U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer with and helicopter operators earlier in 2008 "has failed to alleviate the public nuisance." Said Faulk, "If all the operators honored that agreement, there wouldn’t be a problem. But they don’t, so something has to be done at the legislative level."

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