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16 Staff at eight airports, one helipad, and a regional office of FAA was interviewed about helicop- ter noise issues and noise management approaches. The survey sites were chosen based on author knowledge of helicopter noise management programs, the LA Helicopter Noise Initiative, and input from the ACRP panel members. Interviews were conducted by using a semi-structured format that consisted of a series of open-ended questions. Detailed notes were kept and responses recorded, and copies of any brochures or other printed guidance that was not available on the organizationâs web- site were requested. The questionnaire is reproduced in Appendix D along with a summary table of responses to each question. The responding organizations were: â¢ AustinâBergstrom International Airport (Austin, Texas) â¢ Representative for PlaneNoise, Inc., for helicopter operations on Long Island, New York â¢ FAA (Western Pacific Region) â¢ Long Beach Airport (Long Beach, California) â¢ Los Angeles International Airport (Los Angeles, California) â¢ McCarran International Airport (Las Vegas, Nevada) â¢ Oakland International Airport (Oakland, California) â¢ UCSF Benioff Childrenâs Hospital Helipad (San Francisco, California) â¢ San Francisco International Airport (San Francisco, California) â¢ Van Nuys Airport (Los Angeles, California). All respondents noted that they had a program in place to help manage the noise impact of helicop- ters, although these varied in degree of formality and specificity from a city ordinance to voluntary fly quiet programs. Those programs often included recommended flight paths that avoid residential areas, with recommended altitudes being less common because of issues of safety and regulation by FAA. A few airports monitored adherence to routes through setting up gates or by tracking the helicopters by call sign using their airport noise monitoring system that included a flight tracking system. Some of the survey respondents also limited training operations by restricting time of day or the location of those operations. All of these measures, as well as general information about the helicopter noise management programs, were generally accessible online. Each respondent dealt with different combinations of types of helicopter operations, with the most common categories being transport, law enforcement, fire department, medical, tour, and media. Between the various airports and heliports, the number of operations per day ranged from one to 300; a significant difference in the level of activity. Just as the number of operations varied, so did the number of complaints; anywhere from a few per month to about 2,000. Most of these were triggered by noise, with many people complaining about the noise in general, frequency of flights during certain times of day, low altitudes, and deviations from routes, whereas factors such as fear of crashes and loss of privacy were rarely cited as concerns. In terms of helicopter noise management, most respondents reported that outreach was most effective, including maintaining a flow of information through websites, educating the community and operators in person, or notifying people if helicopter routes were created that passed over their property. It is important to note that outreach in this context meant outreach to the community and to helicopter operators. Higher altitudes, route compliance, and diversifying route structures were chapter six AIRPORT HELICOPTER NOISE SURVEY
17 also mentioned as important measures. Respondents noted that simply publishing noise mitigation procedures without making operators aware of them is not effective. To improve their helicopter noise management, most respondents regularly hold formal or informal meetings with helicopter operators. However, respondents recognized that airports and public use heliports are limited in their ability to control helicopter operations or restrict their access. Some respondents suggested that the FAA could make the Integrated Noise Model easier to use, make it easier to track individual helicopters, keep the community and operators informed, and remain aware of repeat caller impact when analyzing complaint data. The air traffic control tower staff was viewed as supportive by all of the airports interviewed, and respondents reported that the controllers usually tried to assist with implementing the noise abatement procedures in place at each airport. Ultimately, even as they saw the potential for further improvement, many believed that their heli- copter noise management programs were already satisfactory; however, all agreed that a guidebook of effective practices would have an overall positive effect.