A federal court has rejected a challenge by helicopter pilots that would have overturned Federal Aviation Administration rules requiring they fly a mile off Long Island’s North Shore during their trips back and forth to the Hamptons.
The pilots, represented by Helicopter Association International Inc., have been fighting FAA rules enacted last year after the agency found “residents emphatically agreed that helicopter overflights during the summer months are unbearable and negatively impact their quality of life,’ according to a decision issued Friday by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C.
The helicopter association had argued, among other points, that the FAA lacked the authority to change air traffic patterns solely for reducing the impact of aircraft noise on residents and had exceeded its congressional limits on authority.
The court disagreed.
“Although the noise-related provisions [the helicopter association] cites refer to discrete areas, for example, to noise reduction in or near airports, neither their substance nor their structure suggest that Congress intended to narrow its broad authorization to the FAA to regulate the use of navigable airspace, much less to restrict the FAA’s capacity to manage aircraft noise to these limited contexts,” reads the three-judge panel’s decision, written by Circuit Court Judge Judith Rogers.
The judges also agreed the FAA had the authority to act out of concern for safety on the ground, below the flight paths.
The 2012 rules came after years of complaints along the North North and Shelter Island about the noise from helicopters taking well-heeled passengers back and forth to the South Shore over homes, sometimes at low altitudes.
The concern caught the attention of Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other lawmakers who lobbied on behalf of residents for the changes.
Helicopter pilots had typically taken three routes over Long Island, either along the South Shore, North Shore, or over the Long Island Expressway. However, the North Shore route was preferred because it was faster and less likely to encounter weather delays than the southern route, according to the court case.
Under the FAA’s new rules, helicopter pilots are permitted to fly inland on the North Shore only in the case of inclement weather or other emergencies. Offenders could face fines or license revocations.