Buzz over delay in copter regs

08/12/2010 12:00 AM |

State Assemblyman Marc Alessi, alongside state Senator Ken LaValle, displays the name of a new website,, he says will make it easier for Long Islanders to lodge complaints against helicopter operators.

Each speaker who stood at the podium for Monday’s press conference decrying the Federal Aviation Administration’s delay in implementing new helicopter flight path regulations was interrupted by a loud buzzing noise in the air.

The sounds came from more than a half-dozen choppers that passed overhead during the brief gathering at Shoreham Village Beach. And nearly every helicopter was on a path toward their Hamptons destinations that would be in violation of the new standards.

“I didn’t even have to set my alarm clock this morning,” said Assemblyman Marc Alessi, a Democrat who lives in Shoreham Village. “That’s because right at 7:30 I was woken up by a helicopter flying straight over my house. It hasn’t slowed down in the hours since.”

With regulations still not in place that call for operators to fly more than a mile off shore over the Long Island Sound and at an altitude of at least 2,500 feet — and the FAA saying they won’t go into effect until after this summer — local lawmakers and civic leaders are calling on the agency to speed up the process.

The FAA attributes the delay to the many responses from Long Island residents submitted during the public comment period for the new rules. The FAA said more than 1,000 residents submitted comments before the June 30 deadline, and the agency must now take the rest of the summer to review and address each one.

With helicopter traffic much less intense when summer ends, lawmakers said the public shouldn’t expect the FAA to hustle on the new regulations or implement them until next summer.

“If helicopter operators are aware of what the new regulations are going to be, they should be from this day forward operating responsibly,” said Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson).

But a simple peek up at the sky shows helicopter operators have not yet begun to follow the proposed regulations. Many helicopters are still flying inland. Others are flying close to the shore or below 2,500 feet.

“They’re looking to shave 10 to 15 minutes off their flights,” Mr. Alessi said. “This sort of profit-motivated greed will only continue to create problems for the industry and for all of us here.”

In an effort to track pilots who don’t follow the rules, Mr. Alessi unveiled a new website this week on which the public can log complaints against helicopters not following the FAA guidelines, which are voluntary until their implementation as flight rules. Residents can go to and submit the time and location whenever they see a chopper in violation, he said. Lawmakers can then cross-reference the information with FAA radar records to get a better understanding of which pilots are not flying by the guidelines.

Mr. Alessi said he believed the information can be used not only to encourage pilots to follow the guidelines but also to enforce the regulations, once they are imposed. It also may show how the proposed rules might be made more effective. And with extra time now before the rules go into effect, lawmakers are hoping some improvements can be made to them.

County Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches) said he’d like to see flight paths redirected to the South Shore, considering that most of the traffic is headed for the South Fork.

And Mr. Alessi submitted legislation awaiting the governor’s signature that directs the Department of Transportation to provide noise-abatement procedure reports. The assemblyman said he hoped the bill would provide additional oversight in Suffolk County by ensuring better compliance with noise laws.

[email protected]