Encourage quieter helicopters

Posted: Wednesday, March 21, 2001

It sounds too obvious, but one of the simplest ways to reduce helicopter noise is to use quieter helicopters.

In an attempt to help local operators offset the higher price of newer, quieter helicopters, the Assembly has considered granting a property tax exemption for quiet helicopters. Recently, however, interest has waned and the Assembly seems to have shelved the idea of encouraging operators to obtain quiet helicopters - in part because of a belief that "quiet technology" was introduced only last month, and that a helicopter suitable for tour operations may not be available for several more years.

While both the local helicopter industry and the Assembly have focused on the still-developing Eurocopter 130, I've found information suggesting other quiet helicopters already exist.

MD Helicopters, for example, produces an eight-seat helicopter (similar in size to the Eurocopter) called the MD 600N. This helicopter, which has been on the market for five years, has a fly-over noise level of only 79 EPN decibels - making it not only substantially quieter than traditional helicopters but also much quieter than the Eurocopter. Additionally, the MD helicopter is a half-million dollars cheaper than the Eurocopter counterpart. As the 600N has been suitable for tour operators at the Grand Canyon - where quiet technology is required - the aircraft may well be suitable for local tour operations here in Juneau.

Most people will agree that a reduction in helicopter noise could make Juneau a more pleasant place. To encourage local operators to obtain quieter helicopters, the Assembly should consider granting a tax exemption for the new machines. "Quiet technology" helicopters have been available for a decade - with luck and timely encouragement, perhaps we'll soon be able to see them here.

Paul Converse

Auke Bay

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