Maloney Urges FAA to Investigate Dangers Posed by Helicopter Flights Over NYC

Oct 5, 2011 Issues: Transportation
Press Contact: 
Joe Soldevere (212) 860-0606

New York, NY – Today, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Queens) wrote to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) urging the agency to study the dangers posed by unfettered helicopter flights over New York City.  Maloney represents the East Side of Manhattan, including the location of yesterday’s tragic helicopter crash.  Maloney’s letter to FAA Administrator J. Randolph Babbitt follows below.

“Since 1983, we’ve had 28 helicopter crashes in New York, with at least 19 fatalities.  Helicopter traffic is the wild west of aviation.  Helicopters are subject to much less scrutiny than other types of aircraft, and they are not subject to air traffic control.  The FAA can’t kick the can down the road any longer – they must take a serious look at the potential dangers posed by having so many helicopters hovering over the most densely-populated city in the nation.  I believe that the FAA should further regulate helicopter flights over New York, and, if warranted, take steps to reduce the volume of helicopter traffic in our city,” Maloney said.  

Background

Congresswoman Maloney has long expressed concern about helicopters and plane flights over Manhattan, the dangers of which were evidenced by two helicopter crashes into the East River  in 2005, others in 2007 and 2009, and yet another crash this week.  In March 2000, language authored by Congresswoman Maloney was included in the Aviation Investment and Reform spending bill to address public complaints regarding helicopter noise, traffic, and safety issues. Maloney's measure urged the Secretary of Transportation to conduct a study "on the effects of nonmilitary helicopter noise on individuals in densely populated areas" in the U.S. and to "develop recommendations for the reduction of the effects of nonmilitary helicopter noise." That study has never been released.

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October 5, 2011

The Honorable J. Randolph Babbitt
Federal Aviation Administrator
800 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20591

Dear Administrator Babbitt:

Yesterday’s helicopter crash into the East River is the latest in a series of helicopter accidents that have burdened the City of New York, particularly the borough of Manhattan.  According to NTSB accident reports, since 1983, there has been an average of one helicopter accident per year, many with fatalities.  I believe that the time has come for the FAA to do a study of whether non-essential helicopter flights over the city should be permitted or further regulated.

New York City is one of the most densely-settled urban areas in the world, and Manhattan has the highest population density of any county in the nation.  Tragic as yesterday’s crash was, it could have been far worse if the helicopter had crashed on Manhattan’s streets where it would have been likely to kill or injure bystanders.  

Helicopter traffic is the wild west of aviation.  Helicopters are subject to much less scrutiny than other types of aircraft.  They are not subject to air traffic control.  While some helicopter traffic is necessary, New Yorkers should not have to fear helicopters that are merely joy-riding through our skies.  Tourists may want an aerial view of the City’s skyline, but that does not mean that helicopter tourism is safe or appropriate for our densely urban communities.  I urge you to take a look at helicopter traffic over the city to determine whether any further restrictions or regulations would be appropriate, particularly in light of the recent accident, and whether the FAA should take steps to reduce the volume of helicopter traffic over New York.

Thank you for your kind attention to this matter.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

CAROLYN B. MALONEY
Member of Congress