Request Temporary Flight Restriction
NYC helicopter facts do not meet FAR requirements
Change Regulations slower than pass Legislation
“Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler, Nydia Velazquez, Adriano Espaillat, Kathleen Rice, Grace Meng, Thomas Suozzi, Eliot Engel and José Serrano sent a letter Friday to acting FAA Administrator Daniel Elwell demanding the agency take more control over the city airspace.
Their letter highlights the recent incident where a helicopter crash-landed on the AXA Equitable Building, killing the pilot and triggering an evacuation of the building.
The lawmakers argued that high number of helicopter flights, mostly for tourism, in the city poses “intolerable risks” to the densely populated city.
‘There is no justification for allowing tourists to joy-ride through our skies, enduring people below and adding to the heavy burden of noise pollution residents already endure,’ they wrote.”
An interesting effort by nine Members of the Congressional delegation to get a quick fix on the serious issue of helicopter safety over Manhattan. Unlike the headline, the letter only requested a Temporary Flight Restriction (14 CFR§§91.137-144) (TFR); however, the letter implied that the ban on helicopter flights be permanent.
Likely they were aware of the extraordinary FAA authority to issue a TFR for the President when he visits his Trump Tower. The rule CFR §91.141 specifically PROHIBITS flights to be operated “over or in the vicinity of any area to be visited or traveled by the President, the Vice President, or other public figures” as specified in a notice.
The other TFR sections CFR §§137 (specific hazards), 139(limited to an emergency ATC problem), 143 (proximate to a space launch) and 144 (due to abnormally high barometric pressure) do not authorize the restriction requested. The Administrator may not grant the Members’ wish. If a TFR was issued without the supporting
FAR, operators could easily go to court and obtain a Temporary Restraining Order.
The three heliports (Downtown Manhattan Heliport (DMH) West 30th ST (JRA) East 34th Street Heliport (6N5)) are owned by the New York City Economic Development Authority. Ostensibly, that suggests that the City thinks that these helicopter flights are important to the economy. A 2012 study by Appleseed and the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management found that “helicopter service is a central element in the transportation infrastructure that links New York City to the surrounding region and the nation”. The study, “Heliports and their importance to New York City” further found that helicopters in New York City are essential, time-saving and flexible.
To meet the requirements of the Nine Members’ letter closing the Manhattan airspace, the FAA must issue a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. That document would have to be reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget. Assuming that the Oval Office (located next door to OMB), did not veto the proposal, the APA process would consume years before it could become final.
In contrast the Nine Members could introduce legislation that would mandate permanent closure of the Manhattan Airspace (for all but emergency flights?). Surely, all their fellow Representatives would immediately defer to this local measure and the Senators would vote in support quickly. This solution is within the immediate Constitutional authority of Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler, Nydia Velazquez, Adriano Espaillat, Kathleen Rice, Grace Meng, Thomas Suozzi, Eliot Engel and José Serrano. The quickest and most direct path to the cessation of flights over Manhattan.
 (1) Protect persons and property on the surface or in the air from a hazard associated with an incident on the surface;
(2) Provide a safe environment for the operation of disaster relief aircraft; or
(3) Prevent an unsafe congestion of sightseeing and other aircraft above an incident or event which may generate a high degree of public interest. (added explanation)
 Advisory Circular 91-360, which is NOT law, states that a TFR may be issued to “restrict certain aircraft from operating within a defined area, on a temporary basis, to protect persons or property in the air or on the ground.”.