Saturday, November 08, 2014

Opinion: Seacoast Helicopters are noisy and dangerous

Posted Nov. 8, 2014 @ 2:01 am

Nov. 7 — To the Editor:

The people of Portsmouth and neighboring towns are grappling with noise and safety concerns posed by the sightseeing flights of Seacoast Helicopters. I live under their primary route through the city and have children who attend the schools that these helicopters fly over.

On Oct. 23 in Frederick MD a Robinson R44 helicopter collided with a small plane causing a crash in which all three aboard the helicopter were killed. Not only is this the same model as one flown by Seacoast Helicopters, the issue took a sadly more personal tone when I learned that two of the passengers who died were cousins of mine, including the pilot Will Jenkins. Will was an experienced helicopter pilot and instructor — having flown as a bush pilot in Alaska for a number of years.

In thinking of these helicopters flying low over our schools and community many times a day, I am also reminded of a another very sad story from 1991 when Senator John Heinz and 6 others were killed when his airplane collided with a small helicopter near Philadelphia. In that instance wreckage fell on a school playground and killed two children at recess.

The public may not be aware that when Seacoast Helicopters is flying over Portsmouth they are not under control of the air traffic controllers at Pease. They are flying under visual flight rules, or VFR, which means they can fly wherever they want, as low as they want. The NH Gazette reported that on Oct 16th the cloud ceiling was at 700 feet and Seacoast Helicopters was observed flying below this cloud ceiling. How low is too low? The Pease Development Authority provided us with a copy of their “Voluntary Noise Mitigation Procedures” which include flying no lower than 2500’ above the City of Portsmouth. Other procedures include “Mix activity” – don’t fly repeatedly over the same areas – and “Fly neighborly. Do everything possible to minimize aircraft noise”. Clearly Seacoast Helicopters is not abiding by these voluntary procedures.

I for one do not feel safe. I also feel abused by the noise. Let your opinion be known to City Council, the Pease Development Authority, and to Bruce Cultrera at Seacoast Helicopters. Also look for the SSH page on Facebook!

Jason Jenkins


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