In a move designed to curb the cacophony of whirring helicopters ferrying the rich and famous between New York City, the Hamptons and other eastern Long Island destinations, the FAA will soon issue mandatory orders for flights to take place north of the island, over the Long Island Sound, Sen. Charles Schumer said Wednesday.
Schumer also said the Federal Aviation Administration is contemplating similar rules for water routes along the 120-mile island's south. The senator cited a commitment by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to begin implementing the changes by Memorial Day.
"Secretary LaHood's strong and unequivocal statement should serve as a wake-up call to the helicopter industry," Schumer said. "Long Island will not continue to be the Wild West for low flying, disruptive and noisy helicopters."
Not everyone is happy with the plan, however.
An industry group, the Eastern Region Helicopter Council, said a voluntary plan brokered by Schumer in 2007 to limit flights only to the north shore exacerbated problems. "This restricted flight plan resulted in a highly concentrated and condensed flight pattern for all helicopters over the north shore," Jeffery Smith, chairman of the ERHC, said in a statement.
"This is a misguided plan on every level," Smith said. His said his organization prefers spreading flights more evenly between the north shore, the center of the Island and the south shore."
Schumer, a Democrat, noted the Senate passed legislation requiring the changes, but the effort failed in the Republican-led House. He said LaHood will now implement the changes via FAA regulations.
He argued that voluntary regulations enacted five years ago "were largely ignored by the industry. The problem became worse and residents continued to be subjected to deafening, foundation-ratting flyovers."
Although their destinations are usually on eastern Long Island's enclave of tony villages and hamlets known as the Hamptons, the helicopter flights out of New York City often fly over or near many residential neighborhoods during their journey. Because of the speed and convenience they offer, a growing number of Wall Street executives and others who can afford to take helicopters to Long Island's summer playground for the rich and famous.
Trips from Manhattan to the Hamptons in the summertime can take four hours in heavy traffic on the Long Island Expressway and other highways. A helicopter flight takes about 45 minutes and costs about $3,500 each way.