New York City Council Seeks To Ban Certain Helicopters

Proposed legislation would make city-owned heliports off-limits to tourist choppers.

Helicopter in Brooklyn

The buzz of choppers overhead, has been reported in some areas on New York City as “unrelenting.” [File photo: Adobe Stock]

The New York City Council has dealt another blow to on-demand air transport services like Blade Air Mobility, Uber Helicopter, and others with the introduction of a bill that seeks to ban what some council members consider nonessential helicopter flights from city-owned heliports.

Lincoln Restler, a council member who represents the Brooklyn Heights and Greenpoint sections of Brooklyn, introduced the legislation with backing from colleagues representing parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. Many of these districts are near the East River corridor that air service flights frequently use when taking customers to area airports, the Hamptons on Long Island, and other popular destinations.

“There are approx 4,000 nonessential helicopter flights over NYC monthly by Uber, Blade, and tourism companies. It’s disruptive to our communities and bad for our environment.

That’s why we’re introducing a bill to ban nonessential helicopter flights,” Restler tweeted.

City residents have long complained about helicopter noise, but the intensity of complaints has increased in the past several years as flights have become more widely available through ride-sharing apps and other electronic booking platforms. The buzz of choppers overhead, which residents report as “unrelenting” in some areas, has also led to an adversarial “us vs. them” sentiment that resonates in headlines and political discussions.

Similar noise complaints are at the root of a conflict that could eventually result in the closure of East Hampton Airport (KJPX), long a hub of operations for air-taxi services. In that case, the town moved to convert the public airport to private use, which would require pilots to obtain permission before landing. New rules would also limit the number of commercial flights at the airport. Air transport services, airport businesses, and pilot groups sued the town and the issue is currently in litigation.

Depending on the outcome of that litigation, it could also have a significant impact on the many companies planning to launch electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft in the coming years.

While passage of the council bill, closure of the East Hampton airport—or both—would hurt air-taxi operations, transport companies would still be able to operate from alternate facilities, including the West 30th Street Heliport (KJRA) that is not city-owned, Montauk Airport (KMTP), and Southampton Heliport (87N).

Jonathan Welsh is a private pilot who worked as a reporter, editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal for 21 years, mostly covering the auto industry. His passion for aviation began in childhood with balsa-wood gliders his aunt would buy for him at the corner store. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanWelsh4

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