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Putting limits on helicopter noise

A helicopter flies over a palm tree in Southern California.

Rep. Howard Berman attends the 'Children Uniting Nations' 4th Annual National Conference in Washington, DC.

Jeremy Hobson: So, imagine you're sitting down to dinner or trying to go to sleep, and you hear this: helicopter noise.

Well if you live in Los Angeles, it's not your imagination, it's real life. That's where Democratic Congressman Howard Berman comes in. He's trying to change federal law to limit helicopter noise over residential neighborhoods in Southern California. Mr. Berman, good morning.

Howard Berman: Good morning.

Hobson: You've lived in Southern California -- at least part-time -- for your whole life. How much worse is the helicopter noise problem now than it used to be?

Berman: Substantially. This was not an issue that was noticed for a very long time. But in recent years -- and particularly since the Carmageddon weekend -- I've been hearing from constituents, and noticed myself, the frequency of hovering helicopters over people's homes.

Hobson: And are these mostly news choppers, or tourist helicopters, or what?

Berman: Both police and news reporters have used helicopters frequently in the past. The bigger problem is that it has morphed into a form of helicopter tourism, where people who used to take bus tours of star homes now take helicopter tours. Those helicopters fly over celebrity houses, impacting on the entire neighborhood. And there's no law, no regulation, no constraint on their legal right to do that.

Hobson: So does that mean the people that are complaining to you about this are Brad Pitt and Tom Hanks and big Hollywood celebrities?

Berman: No, they're probably more likely the people who live near Brad Pitt and Tom Hanks.

Hobson: OK. A few years ago I visited Memphis -- which is, of course, the home of FedEx, where hundreds of huge planes take off every night over residential areas. And I found it interesting, because no one seems to mind there because they know that those planes mean jobs in Memphis. And I wonder, can't you make the same argument for helicopters that are flying tourists around?

Berman: Well, we have regulations for air traffic. In Los Angeles, if you come in late at night, you land from the Pacific Ocean rather than landing over the residential areas, to improve the quality of life for people who live under air traffic. I'm not trying to prohibit helicopter traffic, I'm just trying to establish some regulatory framework to try and improve quality of life in a way that doesn't impede law enforcement, and at the same time provides some relief for my constituents.

Hobson: Congressman Howard Berman, Democrat of California, thank you so much.

Berman: Thank you.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.

Rep. Howard Berman attends the 'Children Uniting Nations' 4th Annual National Conference in Washington, DC.

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