Research Identifies Effective Practices for Helicopter Noise Management
Researchers have found that outreach to the community and helicopter operators is the most vital part of a helicopter noise management program in a recent study conducted for the Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) titled, "Helicopter Noise Information for Airports and Communities."
Vincent Mestre, lead author and Associate Vice President of Landrum Brown (L&B), and co-authors Paul Schomer and Katherine Liu, Paul Schomer and Associates, Inc., conducted an in-depth literature review and survey with staff at eight airports, a helipad and a regional office of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Their findings revealed that outreach, helicopter noise management programs, noise abatement procedures and technology were the most effective in managing helicopter noise.
Community outreach programs, such as keeping websites current with information, educating the community and operators in public forums, and notifying the public of changes in helicopter routes, were the most important part of helicopter noise management programs.
Helicopter altitude, which is subject to air traffic control (ATC), was the next most cited control measure. ATC typically assigns helicopters lower altitudes because they fly at much lower speeds than fixed-wing aircrafts. These safety factors are not well understood by the public, thus making community outreach a critical component. Helicopters are sometimes viewed as an invasion of privacy due to their low flight altitudes and ability to hover.
In addition to low flight altitudes, helicopters have a very distinct sound from fixed-wing aircrafts that can be annoying to the community. Under particular flight conditions, they produce a series of sharp, equally spaced impulses including “high speed impulsive” noises and “blade slap.” Furthermore, low-frequency noise emissions can cause indoor rattle and vibration in homes.
Noise abatement procedures such as limiting hovering activity, establishing noise abatement routes and setting minimum altitudes could help reduce noise. Las Vegas has had great success in reducing noise complaints by establishing clear helicopter routes and helicopter operators have voluntarily stuck to those routes as prescribed. The airports noise monitoring and flight track system is used to monitor compliance with the helicopter routes. The development of quieter helicopter technology may also help reduce noise; however, there is no mandatory phase-out of older helicopters.
Mestre explains that community reaction to helicopter noise is far less understood than community reaction to fixed-wing aircrafts due to a range of sound, operational and psychological factors. The location, timing and duration of helicopter noise is often unpredictable due to their wide variety of uses and operational flexibility. In addition, there are fewer helicopters than fixed-wing aircraft. Therefore, Mestre is currently conducting a second ACRP study titled, “Assessing Community Annoyance of Helicopter Noise.” The results are expected to be published in mid-2017.
Click here to download “Helicopter Noise Information for Airports and Communities.”
About the ACRP:
The ACRP is an applied research program that develops practical solutions to problems faced by airport operators. It is managed by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and is sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration.
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Vince Mestre, Associate Vice President
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