FAA meets to discuss nuisance aircraft

Genevieve DiNatale
Michael Harlow of the Eastern Service Center Air Traffic Organization gives a presentatoin during Tuesday's meeting. [GENEVIEVE DINATALE/THE LOG]

Representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Flight Standards District Office gave a presentation at the Destin City Hall Annex Tuesday night to roughly 30 residents who were concerned about the low flying aircraft in the area, particularly those companies that own and operate parasail, banner planes and helicopter tours along the beaches and over residences.

Michael Harlow from the Eastern Service Center Air Traffic Organization kicked off the presentation with an overview of the rules for low flying commercial and personal aircraft in the area, such as the minimum safe altitudes and the maximum distance these types of designated aircraft can fly around the various airports in the area.

Then Pat Bruce, the FAA’s frontline operations manager, told the audience how to file a complaint against an aircraft that may be violating the FAA’s regulations – or otherwise creating a nuisance – making sure to mention that every year, the FAA conducts a required incognito surveillance of aircrafts in the area.

Bruce then mentioned that in the past five years none of the complaints that have been filed about nuisance aircraft were "actionable" because those complaining didn’t substantiate their complaints beyond sending a picture of an aircraft in flight.

"If it’s just a helicopter in a clear blue sky then that’s unactionable," he said.

After the FAA gave their presentation, Justin Johnson , the CEO of Timerview Choppers, a helicopter tour company in Destin, approached the podium telling those in the audience that he would give them a free tour and remove their residence from his route if the noise and proximity of his helicopters was a nuisance. In response to this, two residents requested that he stay away from their house and he agreed as the audience clapped.

Then when it was time for a Q&A session with the audience.

Destin residents began to complain to the FAA, with some attendees calling them inconsiderate, among other things.

One resident said he had "calibrated noise meter readings" from his front porch of noisy helicopters that he would like to send to the FAA and a woman added that helicopters come within 20 feet of her roof.

Harlow, of the Eastern Service Center’s Air Traffic Organization, told the audience that he has a condo in Destin and when he purchased it, he was fully aware of the helicopter pad outside of his window.

"The noise is not as bad as they say it is," he said. "I bought a condo and I knew the helicopters were there when I bought it."

Within minutes one of those in the audience said that Harlow was rude, but by the end of the discussion, the other representatives of the FAA said they would get together and evaluate the complaints and take action against the "bad actors."

"I think maybe there was some progress made tonight," said Richard Henry of the FAA at the end of the meeting. "I think we should all stay in touch with each other and start talking about this, especially as these letters of grievance come up."