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Schumer: DOT Finalizes and Makes Public Helicopter Regulations Mandating Over-Water North Shore Routes for Helicopters on Long Island - Regs to Take Effect in Early August

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United States Senator Schumer announced today that U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) finalized and made public regulations this morning mandating the use of an over-the-water North Shore helicopter route that will go into effect in early August. In January, Schumer secured a commitment from Ray LaHood that the regulations would be implemented by July 4th, but finalization and publication of the rule was delayed as a result of a review by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Throughout the process, Schumer was in constant contact with the highest officials at the DOT and OMB, pushing the agencies to finalize and implement this rule as soon as possible to bring relief to Long Islanders.

Today, Schumer announced that the DOT had finalized and made public the rule, via its website, and that it would take effect 30 days from the day it is published. The rule states that unless otherwise authorized, each helicopter operating along Long Island's northern shoreline between the VPLYD waypoint in Huntington and Orient Point must use the North Shore Helicopter route over the Long Island Sound. The regulation will be in effect in early August. A link to the regulation can be found on the FAA's website at: http://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/rulemaking/media/NYNShoreHelicopterFinalRule.pdf

"This is an historic win for Long Islanders that will provide some peace and quiet for many of those who have had to put up with the earth-shattering noise from a cavalcade of low-flying helicopters for too long. These regulations are now signed, sealed and delivered and will mean real relief for many Long Islanders starting in early August," said Schumer. "Way back in Feb 2006, I received a letter from our host, Craig Cooper, regarding loud and low-flying helicopters over the north shore of Long Island that were negatively impacting his and his neighbors' quality of life. With the announcement of these regulations, I am certain we are finally on the path towards relief for Craig and thousands of residents along the North Shore of Long Island."

"The Village of Floral Park is very pleased to learn of Senator Schumer's recent victory in his ongoing efforts to protect the quality of life characteristic of Long Island, by encouraging helicopter traffic over water, as opposed to land," said Floral Park Trustee Mary-Grace Tomecki.

"For far too long the residents of Eastern Brookhaven and the East End have been over burdened by helicopter noise," said Suffolk County Leg. Ed Romaine. "These new regulations - three years in the making - are a good first step towards addressing residents' concerns. I thank Senator Schumer and Secretary LaHood for their leadership on this issue and I look forward to working together to develop enhanced rules in the near future."

"As a Suffolk County Legislator who represents part of Smithtown, I appreciate the efforts of Senator Schumer to work with the FAA, DOT and OMB on behalf of our constituents to mandate over-water helicopter routes on the North Shore of Long Island," said Suffolk County Legislator Lynne C. Nowick. "Hopefully, these regulations will improve the quality of life for our residents and insure greater public safety," Nowick added.

"Since this has been a quality of life issue affecting the residents of northeastern Brookhaven Town, Riverhead and Southold for many years, I am happy to see progress is being made towards providing relief from this problem," said Assemblyman Daniel P. Losquadro (R, C, Shoreham). "However, I will continue to advocate for the Federal Aviation Administration to reopen the South Shore flight path, as I have been doing since my time as a Suffolk County Legislator. I want to thank Senator Schumer for his continuous efforts in finding a solution to this issue."

Since first being contacted about noise from low-flying helicopters on Long Island, Schumer has worked with officials from the FAA, New York metropolitan area helicopter operators, and airport managers from Nassau and Suffolk Counties, NY to establish solutions to eradicate onerous helicopter noise. While the parties originally agreed to voluntary regulations, the recommendations were largely ignored by the industry. The problem intensified and residents continued to suffer regular deafening, foundation-rattling flyovers.

Concerned with the industry's and FAA's implementation of those voluntary regulations, Schumer introduced and passed legislation in February 2011 that was included in the Senate version of the FAA Reauthorization Bill. Senator Jay Rockefeller, Chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and the Senate majority fought hard to include the Schumer legislation in the conference report, but were blocked by the Republican-led House, at the industry's behest.

In response to the House decision to block Schumer's bill, Secretary LaHood met with Schumer and committed to completing the regulations on the North Shore route by Memorial Day and having them be in effect by July 4th. The DOT further committed to pursue additional rulemaking to cover remaining issues such as a South Shore route and greater protections for North Shore communities saying,"We're also moving forward with rulemaking that will propose over water helicopter routes for the South Shore, and consider additional specificity for the North Shore route to protect communities that would be impacted by entry and exit points." Secretary LaHood's announcement in January represented the first time that the Department of Transportation, which has oversight of the FAA, weighed in directly on the issue of helicopters on Long Island.

Schumer today announced that the Department of Transportation had finalized and published the rules on their website this morning and that the rules would take effect by early August. The rules will mean a mandatory, over-water North Shore route for helicopters. The rule states that unless otherwise authorized, each helicopter operating along Long Island's northern shoreline between the VPLYD waypoint in Huntington and Orient Point must use the North Shore Helicopter route, as published. Pilots may deviate from this requirements when required for safety, weather conditions, or transitioning to or from a destination or point of landing. With respect to enforcement, the rule says that a pattern of deviations from the route would indicate that an operator was interested more in cutting short the route rather than any legitimate safety concerns, and such violations may result in a financial penalty or the suspension or revocation of the pilot's airman certificate. The appropriate enforcement action in a given case would be determined by reference to FAA's statutory authority and its sanction guidance.

Additionally, the FAA noted that a number of reasons why this regulation was justified. In their rule, the FAA states that the combination of the following five features of Long Island, which are likely unique to the area, support their statutory authority to move forward with a final rule:

1. Because Long Island is surrounded by water, it was possible to develop a route that took helicopters a short distance off the shoreline. Thus, the North Shore Helicopter Route does not negatively impact other communities and operators can use the route without significant additional costs.

2. There are disproportionately more multi-engine helicopters flying in Long Island than the national averages (approximately 65% versus 10-15% nationally.) This allows for greater use of the off-shore route.

3. There are visual waypoints along the route that allow pilots to fly along the route with no additional equipment during good weather.

4. The helicopter traffic along the north shore of Long Island is largely homogenous, in that it is primarily point-to-point transit between New York City and the residential communities along the northern and eastern shores of Long Island.

5. The population corridor along the north shore of Long Island is significant, and coupled with the number of airports/heliports on the island, the FAA found it reasonable to develop a route to mitigate noise impacts.

Finalization and implementation was delayed by an extra set of bureaucratic review by the OMB. Schumer said that regulation represented the important first step in the process, and would continue pushing the DOT to achieve the second step: implementation of helicopter regulations for the South Shore and for additional specificity for the North Shore route to protect Long Islanders effected by entry and exit points. Schumer also said that he would push to re-new the regulations in two years, when they expire. Schumer noted that he expects renewal because the rule only requires the FAA to show that it reduced helicopter noise, instead of going through the entire regulatory process again.

"It does not solve every problem on Day One, but this regulation of helicopter flight paths is a giant first step that sets a critical precedent that values residents' quality of life. I will work with Long Island representatives, community leaders and residents to make the DOT live up to their promise of pursuing a second phase of regulation to cover a South Shore route and expanded protections for north shore communities," said Schumer.


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