The New York City Council’s effort to ban “nonessential helicopter operations at city heliports” met with stiff opposition from Vertical Aviation International (VAI) at a hearing on Apr. 16. VAI Northeastern US Regional Representative Josh Rousseau testified before the council Tuesday, along with local stakeholders who spoke about the region’s existing helicopter operations and the push to prevent nonelectric vertical aircraft from using local heliports. 

In his testimony, Rousseau emphasized to the council that community compatibility is one of the vertical aviation industry’s top priorities. “We are constantly engaged with our members, community groups, and industry partners in an ongoing dialogue to address concerns related to helicopter operations,” he said.

Rousseau highlighted the association’s Fly Neighborly program, a joint project with the FAA that encourages operators to work within their communities to reduce complaints due to aircraft operations. He also emphasized the importance of the New York/New Jersey Helicopter Symposium, which brings together industry leaders, stakeholders, and government entities to fine-tune best practices and routing in an effort to fly more safely and address community concerns. 

Rousseau reminded those in attendance of the significant economic benefit of general aviation, which includes helicopters. In New York, general aviation supports over 43,000 jobs and generates significant economic output.  

Rousseau also stated industry support for New York City Mayor Eric Adams’s recent initiative to transform the Downtown Manhattan Heliport (KJRB) into a hub for sustainable transportation supporting electric flight and quieter aviation options. Rousseau stressed the potential economic benefits of investing in advanced air mobility (AAM) infrastructure, including job creation and reduced environmental impacts, while also pointing out that this technology is still in development and is not yet a reality. 

Overall, Rousseau cited serious concerns about city and state legislation that seeks to regulate helicopter operations in the New York City airspace. He argued that such measures conflict with federal law, particularly FAA jurisdiction over aviation operations and sound-abatement efforts.  

With VAI’s vision of greater community compatibility for current operations and with a keen eye on the future of our industry, the association strongly opposes all legislation to ban nonessential helicopter operations as well as any proposal to unfairly limit the use of New York City’s heliport system.

“While we may respectfully disagree with legislation aimed at our industry for many of the reasons laid out in this testimony, VAI remains committed to working with all stakeholders to address community needs while also remaining committed to our members and the benefits of what our industry brings to the communities we live and work in,” Rosseau added. 

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