In my last column, we looked at living in Homeowner Heaven or Homeowner Hell. That one drew more comments than any other that I have written. This one is about what some citizens call “Helicopter Hell.” Some refer to them as “HELL-a-copters.” That is because these inherently loud choppers deliberately fly over our densely-populated shoreline at such dangerously low altitudes, even lower than the upper floors of some beachfront condos. They have even been seen flying close to or in between parasail tow lines, putting those riders at great risk.
The other issue is noise. Some Destin officials have gone to the extreme with a proposed new noise law that would almost make it illegal to even laugh out loud in your own back yard. And god help us if your dog barks at another dog. The residential criterion is 150 feet, while these sightseeing helicopters can be heard coming from a mile away. It just doesn’t make sense.
The current mayor and I don’t agree on much but he has my full support on the sightseeing helicopter issue. He has tried very hard and in vain to get city and county officials to act on it. The problem is that the city and county have no authority over where aircraft can fly. That is the sole responsibility of the Federal Aviation Administration, (FAA). Here is how you can help:
Okaloosa County and the Destin Executive Airport are hosting a meeting to commission the new Air Traffic Control Tower this Thursday, Oct. 19 at Destin City Hall Annex. It starts at 6 p.m. After the usual courtesies, there is a questions and comments session for public input. Please attend and pass the word to as many concerned citizens as you can. Numbers are important.
Don’t be dissuaded by thinking that the FAA won’t listen to you. I can tell you from my own experience that they do. As a former airline engineer, I have worked with the FAA in Atlanta and in D.C. on numerous occasions. Their primary job is aviation safety. They are also sensitive to noise concerns. As a result, the FAA has restricted hours of operation at many airports such as Reagan National in Washington. They have also established noise abatement procedures for takeoffs and landings at many airports to divert aircraft away from densely-populated areas such as the Destin beach and highly congested U.S. Highway 98.
All we ask is for these whirlybirds to be respectful of our safety and quiet enjoyment. As a commercially-licensed pilot, I have operated an aerial photo service out of the Destin airport. I always flew my plane at a safe altitude and a respectful distance from those on the ground. It is just common courtesy.
Here are a few excerpts from a letter sent to members of a large Destin HOA: “The tower will have control of all aircraft in the local area and direct it according for maximum safety and efficiency. All low flying aircraft including helicopters will be subject to the control of the tower. A huge turnout would be a plus for this concern. DO NOT MISS THIS OPPORTUNITY.”
Please understand that none of this is intended to inhibit, or in any way restrict the very important military mission that is so vital to our economy and to our national security.
Until then, keep your questions and comments coming as shown below.
Jack Simpson has owned and managed rental properties in Destin since 1974 and has lived in the city since 1983. His column is designed to start conversations in the community. To respond to Jack's column in The Log, email your letter to the editor or guest column to firstname.lastname@example.org. To contact Jack directly, email email@example.com.