City adopts resolution to seek changes from FAA to keep helicopter flights away from homes

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

The Destin City Council is seeking changes from the Federal Aviation Administration to direct helicopter tours away from residential areas and congested beaches. 

“I’m not trying to shut down a business,” Councilman Kevin Schmidt said. “But a lot of citizens are concerned about safety."  

Timberview Helicopters take off Monday afternoon from their helipad located between Commons Drive to the north and Emerald Coast Parkway to the south. They egress from the pad over Henderson Beach State Park.

The city adopted a resolution at its Feb. 6 meeting that says it has “received numerous complaints from residents regarding excessive noise from low-flying helicopters over residential areas and beaches located within the city of Destin.” 

It also states that the number of complaints concerning “helicopter and air tours continues to increase significantly each year and has become one of the city’s most frequently received complaints.” 

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Timberview Helicopters at 34859 Emerald Coast Parkway, just to the west of Destin Commons and not within the city limits, received complaints from at least one resident at the Feb. 6 meeting. 

“One of these helicopters is going to crash … you are going to open yourself up to a liability,” Teresa Oliver said during open comments at the meeting. 

Timberview Helicopters is located off Commons Drive in Destin.

Her concern was noise and safety.

“The FAA is going to do nothing,” she said. “The problem is they are in the wrong place. They want access to the beach. 

“The solution is to get them over near the coast,” Oliver said. 

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Oliver said she has talked with many people who have moved away because of the noise. 

Kim Koupp, city land use attorney, said the helicopter tour business on Commons Drive is not within the municipal area, so the resolution does not attempt to regulate their tours. 

Timberview Helicopters get ready for takeoff earlier this week.

“The FFA says we’re operating within the law. We have a flawless record,” Justin Johnson, owner of Timberview, told the council. 

“We have flown a half-million customers. We’ve had 22,000 flight hours without a single incident,” he said. 

Johnson said Timberview is more than just a helicopter tour business. He explained the company has contracts with the National Weather Service and has worked with the Coast Guard. He said it has helped with search and rescues.  

“We’re bigger than just tourism … not a single resident home gets flown over,” Johnson said. 

Timberview Helicopters is located off Commons Drive in Destin.

“We have a flight plan approved by the FAA,” he said, noting they egress from the helipad off Commons Drive over Henderson Beach State Park.

He said he didn't appreciate finding his business on the agenda. “Ideal courtesy would have been a phone call … no way to be a community member. I consider you, my neighbor.”

The resolution to seek input from the FAA passed unanimously. Councilwoman Teresa Hebert and Councilman Matthew Sweetser were absent.