Every spring, when windows reopen after a long winter, and throughout the summer our office receives receives complaints from residents about helicopter noise. The Federal Aviation Administration is the government entity that has the authority to regulate helicopter operations. The FAA’s Boston Flight Standards District Office Low Flying Aircraft document includes the following statement regarding helicopters, which gets to the heart of the problem: Helicopter operations may be conducted below the minimum altitudes set for fixed-wing aircraft. The reason: they have unique operating characteristics, the most important of which is their ability to execute pinpoint emergency landings during power-out emergencies. Furthermore, the helicopter’s increased use by law enforcement and emergency medical service agencies requires added flexibility.
The FAA has jurisdiction and the ability to contact aircraft owners that are flying too low. The general requirement is for aircraft in a congested area is to fly “1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.” However, helicopters may be operated at a lower altitude “if the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface.” Additionally, the operator must comply with routes or altitudes specifically prescribed but the FAA. The routes are designed to minimize noise directly over people’s homes by routing helicopters over water and busy roads. See the route map for details. Unfortunately for many of Senator Brownsberger’s constituents, the routes pass directly through different neighborhoods in the district.
Further, there are several helicopter landing pads located in or very close to the district. Takeoffs and landings at these heliports obviously necessitate low altitude operations.
0MA1 Boston Massachusetts General Hospital Heliport
MA39 Boston Brigham & Women’s Hospital Heliport
0MA4 Boston Boston Medical Center Hospital Heliport
MA66 Boston Tufts Medical Center Heliport
36MA Boston Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Heliport
0MA6 WBZ Heliport
The FAA will take complaints about low flying aircraft but it is necessary to be able to identify the aircraft by its registration number. The registration number is generally located on the fuselage or tail and will be preceded with a capital “N”. A complaint should include the date, time, place and estimated altitude of an aircraft and any supporting evidence such as pictures or videos. See this document for further information.
To file a complaint with the Boston FSDO, you can call: (781) 238-7500
Chief of Staff
Office of Senator William N. Brownsberger