Tempers are sky-high among people who live both east and west of the Illinois Medical District (IMD) because of loud helicopters that neighbors said disobey Vertiport Chicago instructions to fly along railroad tracks rather than over residential areas.
Vertiport Chicago is located at 1339 S. Wood St. in the IMD area. One area resident passed out flyers, urging people to contact the Gazette to express their concerns.
More than one dozen did. The area “sounds like a war zone,” said Rebecca Hendrick, a resident of Bowler Street in the Tri-Taylor area and professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
“Helicopters fly low and directly over the neighborhood” way too often, she said.
“The helicopter noise is too damn loud and way too frequent,” said Floyd Bednarz of Flournoy Street. “I can’t even carry on a conversation when one flies overhead.”
He counted 12 fly-overs between 5:45 and 6:30 a.m. one day. On a recent morning when it was raining, “nothing. They couldn’t fly, so there was peace and quiet,” he said. “One of the main reasons for us purchasing a house in this neighborhood was that our street was so quiet,” said Lazar Milanov of Bishop Street. “Not any more,” he added.
Milanov said he spoke with Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), and the alderman told Milanov he will pursue it.
“I have seen helicopters coming in the wrong way,” Ervin said. “From what I am observing, people using the helicopters are not using the [recommended] flight path.”
He planned to meet with Vertiport proprietors. “I am also going to be meeting with the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration].”
Ervin wondered if some of the helicopters come from a different vertiport, Chicago Helicopter Experience at 2420 S. Halsted St. He hopes to call both proprietors to a meeting along with Ald. Patrick D. Thompson (11th) whose ward contains the Chicago Helicopter Experience.
Vertiport Chicago began flights less than a year ago. Emergency helicopters “come in on a bee line—the fastest, safest possible way,” said Mike Cusack, chief operator of Vertiport Chicago. Nonemergency helicopters such as tour flights are advised to fly east and west along the rail yard between 16th and 18th streets, Cusack added, honoring a “good neighbor layout.”
Nevertheless, “We are not specifically in control,” he noted.
Nicole Beck of Oakley Avenue wrote the FAA on behalf of her Tri-Taylor Community Association board. The response she received was that the FAA’s hands are tied so long as the helicopters are flying safely.
Beck said the Tri-Taylor board would request a “good neighbor policy” from Vertiport Chicago. She wondered why the flight paths do not focus on Ashland Avenue or follow the train tracks south of Vertiport Chicago “as promised.”
Tri-Taylor resident Brian Stetler said even Western Avenue offers a more tolerable route than flying over residential areas.
The IMD Commission leases the land to Vertiport Chicago’s owners but does not control flight patterns or noise levels, IMD spokesperson Ryan Gage said. Most flights are emergency medical transports, which have priority at the facility, he noted.
“The Vertiport commercial tours do not fly over the residential corridor of the district,” Gage said, noting they fly along the railroad tracks south of Vertiport Chicago to and from the lake. “There are a variety of other possibilities to consider, including news, police, and medical flights,” he said. The flight paths of emergency helicopters are not under our jurisdiction.”
Tri-Taylor resident Michael Ramstedt, who lives on Oakley Avenue, disagrees. “It’s always the blue or red tour ones from the Vertiport. I haven’t seen anything that looks like a med-copter.”
Cusack said Vertiport Chicago does not have any red or blue tour helicopters, only brown and green ones, and noted Chicago Helicopter Experience has red ones. Bridget Bolger, who lives on Claremont Avenue, said when helicopters buzz her home, it is “totally obnoxious.” She urged neighbors to video the low-flying helicopters to present examples to Ervin and the FAA.
Emily Steffen does not want to discourage a new business, although the noise bothers her. She suggested more regulation of flight hours during summer months, especially on weekdays when people have to get to work early. “Maybe the companies can vary their flight plans to go over different neighborhoods so no single one is overwhelmed,” she said.
Steffen awaits winter. “Though the noise is annoying in summer months, I’m sure it won’t be as bad when we’re all inside more during the winter, and the sun goes down because of [the end of] daylight savings time,” she said.
Ramstedt said the tour season for helicopter flights seemed to be winding down, but he is bracing for noise during the summer next year.
Bednarz expected noise when he moved to the area a number of years ago—Chicago Transit Authority trains, freight trains, sirens— “but the noise from these sources pales in comparison to loud, 100- plus decibels sometimes, chopping noise of helicopters flying directly overhead on their flight path. With increasing violence, soaring taxes and fees, and now a further reduction in my quality of life, I am planning to leave Chicago soon.”
Vertiport Chicago operators want to be good neighbors, Cusack said. But, he said, “We don’t own any helicopters. They use us as a parking garage or gas station.”
The owners of the tour helicopter companies using Vertiport Chicago are Rotor Zen and Helimotion.
Original article can be found here: http://www.gazettechicago.com