Aviation Advocates Push Back On New York City Laws Targeting Helicopter Operations


Several aviation organizations rallied against proposed New York City laws targeting “non-essential” helicopter operations at city-owned heliports.

The New York’s City Council Committee on Economic Development included proposals in its agenda to implement a noise tax on “non-essential” helicopter and seaplane operations, urge the FAA to ban charter and tourist flights and limit city heliport operations to electric-powered rotorcraft only.

Advocacy groups including NBAA and AOPA spoke out against the council’s proposed restrictions, arguing the measures would harm the economy. “The proposed restrictions on helicopter operations at the city’s heliports would be devastating to New York City’s economy, operators, business and workers that contribute to the creation of 43,200 jobs and generation of $8.6 billion in total economic output,” said NBAA Northeast Regional Director Britany Davies during a hearing this week.

The groups also said noise-based restrictions may violate federal regulations, specifically the Airport Noise and Capacity Act (ANCA), which grants sole authority to the FAA to regulate aeronautical activities.

Amelia Walsh
Amelia Walsh is a private pilot who enjoys flying her family’s Columbia 350. She is based in Colorado and loves all things outdoors including skiing, hiking, and camping.


  1. NYC is already a crowded, loud, vile place. How much trouble could the helicopters possibly be adding?

    I would imagine that the operators and the clients of the helicopters are rich and powerful enough to maintain their operations.

  2. I’ve never been to NYC, but two friends who have been, said it was noisy – due to police/fire sirens. Neither mentioned helicopter noise.

    • With all the other noise in New York, I am surprised anyone could hear a helicopter, or even gun shots. But being New York City, and New York State, they will solve the “problem” by taxing it, so they have more money to spend foolishly.

  3. NYC is a loud place. If you don’t live near the heliports, you don’t hear the helicopters because they’re generally out over the water and there’s so much other noise – especially sirens (a campaign to stop cars honking was generally successful, years ago, but sirens are loud because they’re supposed to be). If you do live near the heliports, the helicopters are loud, as you’d expect, and with the very limited number of heliports the noise is nearly constant. But, the fact that they’re also targeting the seaplanes, which basically no-one at all can hear (low power during taxi, and takeoff is out in the middle of the East River), suggests this is about something else – I’d guess a desire to get more money out of the services, but maybe a desire to develop the sites.

  4. Like most airport complaints, this is not so much about noise as it is classism. Airplane ‘noise’ is a problem not because it’s loud, but because it’s considered something the “wealthy” do. The sounds of airplanes make those on the ground feel like “have nots”.

    Case-in-point – Westchester Airport (HPN) just north of NYC has numerous sound monitoring stations in the surrounding neighborhoods due to the complaints from those surrounding neighborhoods. These microphones record the sounds of airplanes passing overhead. They also record every other sound, such as garbage trucks, delivery vehicles, leaf blowers, and lawn mowers. But, despite the fact that those ground-based vehicles are often louder and more numerous than the airplanes passing overhead, only the airplanes generate noise complaints.

    In my opinion, the complaints about helicopters over NYC fall into the same category. I enjoy visiting the city. I like the ‘hustle and bustle’ of this metropolis. And it is a noisy place – no surprise as Manhattan island has roughly 1.5 million residents… and it doubles as another 1.5 million commute in every day. All jammed into an island less than 23 square miles in size (almost 73,000 people per square mile). Heck, the Empire State Building has its own ZIP code.

    But whenever I visit, it’s rare that I notice the sounds of helicopters. The constant din of traffic, horns, sirens (police, fire, ambulance) are omnipresent, even overnight (the bars don’t close until 4AM – it’s truly a city that never sleeps). Complaining about helicopter noise is just classism.

    Or, there may be an ulterior motive, most likely related to prime waterfront property where the current heliports and seaplane bases reside. The same is true about the push to ban carriage rides because it was too cruel to the horses. The reality was much of the push was coming from real-estate developers wanting to grab the midtown stables and turn them into luxury apartments. Color me cynical, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the same forces were at work against helicopters and seaplanes.

  5. I am surprised no one mentioned the constant noise emitted by air conditioners in NY. Combined with sirens, I doubt 99% of residents can hear ANY helicopters. Not saying I would want to be without A/C in NY in the summer, but if you don’t like noise, maybe consider moving to Idaho.

  6. The cumulative noise from ground transportation, a million cars registered in NYC, is indeed much higher overall than that from helicopters. The continuous hum of ground traffic is a constant background noise in the city, whereas helicopter noise is more sporadic. I agree with William, “How much trouble could the helicopters possibly be adding?”

  7. I used to fly tour helicopters in NYC out of East 60th, East 34th, Downtown (aka: Wall Street) and West 30th. I was a member of ERHA and at every meeting the mitigation of noise complaints was always on the agenda. Honest efforts at reduction were always expected and most times implemented.
    NYC is a metropolis, some say the greatest city in the world. Helicopters are part of the cacophony, the excitement, the utility, the scenery.
    Honestly, the residents of Manhattan can surely hear our rotors, probably a little too clearly and a little too often.
    But like the police and fire trucks on the street, the car horns, the jet traffic overhead, it’s just the nature of such a lively place! You can’t escape the noise or other disturbances, visual, audible, physical. Fires, crime, gatherings, concerts, traffic, emergencies, fun, tourists, vagrants, bright signs, smelly garbage, colored lights, advertising, on and on and on.
    Get out of town if you don’t like it, don’t ruin it for the rest of us.

  8. Since it appears that none of the commenters above actually lives in NYC or understand the issue, let me give you the real story. For over 20 years New Yorkers have been trying to limit the activity of UNNECESSARY helicopters. (Guiliani closed East 60th which is now a park.) This is not a real estate play or a money grab, but an attempt to make our lives substantially better. The 2 NYC owned heliports would remain open for essential uses. West 30th would become park land. People are moving out of NYC solely because of the helicopter noise. The sound signature of a rotary aircraft is very different than an air conditioner or other aircraft and much more disturbing. This is impacting large heavily populated areas of the city. As a capitalist, I believe businesses should pay for their externalities. The chopper operators do not.