Helicopters training, complaints grow in frequency and decibels

Jacob Fuller
Destin resident Christina Clauson took this photo as a Vertol Systems Company-owned Mi-8 helicopter flew over her home.

As helicopter training ramps up at Destin Jet, so do complaints about the noisy, Russian-built choppers hovering over residential areas.

Vertol Systems Company operates a flight training operation out of Destin Airport with Mil Mi-8, twin-turbine transport helicopters. Recently, a new round of training began. Complaints from residents to The Log and to Northwest Florida Regional Airport deputy director Michael Stenson soon followed.

"This company has the right to do the training there. They are not doing anything against any FAA policy," Stenson told The Log. "As long as the training is being done, and it's being done properly and in a safe manner, the FAA fully allows that aeronautical activity to occur."

Stenson said Vertol Systems is training military pilots, but he doesn't know exactly who is receiving the training. The operations are not in conjunction with Hurlburt Field or Eglin Air Force Base, Stenson said.

Several locals asked The Log about the helicopters via Facebook, including Christina Clauson, Jaime Tyson Moore and Steffy W Odel. Christina and her husband Carl Clauson live within a mile of the airport. Carl said he doesn't understand why there has been more controversy over the small tour helicopters taking off from the harbor and Crab Island than there is over these large, military-style transport choppers.

"They are like gnats. This is like a big bumble bee," Clauson told The Log.

Clauson said that as a homeowner in Destin, it's hard to imagine that these helicopters would be allowed to train over residential areas.

"It boggles my mind that this is permitted, but I guess everybody is looking the other way," Clauson said.

Vertol Systems has not responded to multiple voicemail messages left by The Log. A request for an interview left with the operator at Destin Jet, the fixed-base operator which Vertol Systems works with at the Destin Airport, was also not returned.

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