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Congressman Nadler Introduces Legislation to Regulate Commercial Air Tours

Washington, D.C. — Yesterday, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (NY-10) introduced H.R. 389, the Safe and Quiet Skies Act, along with Representatives Ed Case (HI-1), Albio Sires (NJ-8), Joe Neguse (CO-2), Brad Sherman (CA-30), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-At Large). This legislation will direct the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to adopt National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendations that will increase safety and reduce the community disruption of commercial air tours. The bill mandates strict regulation of commercial air tour operations to address defense risks and community disruption, including no overflights of defense, park, cemetery, and other sensitive installations and minimum altitude maximum noise limits on all flights.

"The commercial air tours that buzz incessantly through New York City’s skies are not only a source of unnecessary and damaging noise and environmental pollution, they put New Yorkers and tourists in danger,” said Congressman Nadler. “After more than thirty helicopter crashes in New York City since 1980 alone, many of which been fatal, I have repeatedly called on the FAA to impose additional regulations to keep our city safe. Unfortunately, the FAA has failed to take meaningful action. In 2019, nearly eight thousand commercial air tours flew over National Parks of New York Harbor Management Unit (NPNH) sites, which include national treasures like the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The large volume of commercial air tours over NPNH sites are increasingly unsafe and create quality of life issues for New Yorkers and tourists through noise and negative environmental impacts. I am proud to join my colleagues in authoring legislation to place needed restrictions on commercial air tour operations. Low-flying tourist helicopters and small planes are both a nuisance and a clear danger: it’s time we put an end to reckless joy-rides over New York City.”

Specifically, the Safe and Quiet Skies Act will:

  • Require that tour flights fly above the 1,500-foot altitude over actual ground at all times with very limited exceptions for emergencies and takeoff/landing
  • Require tour flights over occupied areas (including residential, commercial and recreational areas) to be no louder than 55 dbA, the same level of noise commonly allowed for residential areas
  • Allow states and localities to impose additional requirements – stricter than the minimum national requirements called for in the act – on tour flights
  • Require that all regulations under this Act, in addition to any updates to any Air Tours Common Procedure Manuals (voluntary understandings between operators and the FAA), include public engagement
  • Prohibit tour flights over military installations, national cemeteries, national wilderness areas, national parks, and national wildlife refuges;
  • Apply the “sterile cockpit rule” to tour flights, which requires that pilots only focus on safely operating the aircraft and would define tour-giving and narrating as outside of the duties required for safe operation
  • Require FAA to implement NTSB recommendations regarding Part 135 regulations, which most tour flights fly under.
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