Los Angeles Philharmonic / Music News & Info: Classical

Helicopters and the Hollywood Bowl: falling on deaf ears

If you think that the number of helicopters visiting the Hollywood Bowl mid-concert has been increasing, you’re not the only one.  In today’s Los Angeles Times,  Deborah Borda (Los Angeles Philharmonic President) says:   “It’s always been a problem, but now it’s every concert. Not almost every concert, but every concert, multiple times. And it didn’t use to be.”  Appearently, as many as four or five helicopters fly overhead every night during a performance.

The article mentions that as part of an effort to quell  the noise, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys) introduced a bill into Congress calling for a reduction in helicopter noise pollution.  The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a motion supporting the bill.  This is all on top of annual meetings the LA Phil has with the Professional Helicopter Pilots Association (PHPA) during a rehearsal at the Bowl, complete with a helicopter fly-over to show how loud and distracting things get.

Best of luck for all of these combined efforts.  Judging by a recent article in The New York Times about helicopters in So Cal, they’re going to need it.  Badly.  An excerpt:

Ask the Federal Aviation Administration, city officials, the police department, beleaguered residents or the tourist pilots who are more than willing to fly low for the promise of a tip. This is, for all intents and purposes, an unregulated industry, an increasingly frustrating realization for Los Angeles as it experiences what many people say is the most intense period of helicopter use in memory. One neighborhood leader said he was afraid of complaining too loudly for fear that the helicopter operators would retaliate — legally — by parking over his house.

“See how we are flapping right now?” said Esteban Jimenez, a pilot for Hollywood Helicopter Tours, as his four-passenger Robinson R44 Raven II circled at an unnerving 90-degree angle, barely 100 feet over houses below. “That is upsetting everybody. We are at a safe enough distance. But it makes people really upset. I get calls all the time.”

Mr. Jimenez kept his helicopter, its blades thumping the air, eye-level with the Hollywood sign.

“People don’t understand what’s really going on,” he said. “They really can’t do anything. I could buzz you as long as I keep my distance. We are legal. They don’t control the air space. . . .

. . . On July 19 evening, a helicopter clacked loudly over the Hollywood Bowl at the very moment Gustavo Dudamel was leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic through the adagio in the overture to Mozart’s “Abduction From the Seraglio.” The day before, Mr. Jimenez had pointed to the Hollywood Bowl operators as some of the biggest complainers as he flew his helicopter over the famous amphitheater.

“These people here are always crying,” he said. “They are always calling the towers telling them to get us away. These people are the worst. It’s sad, but they can’t do anything. All they can do is complain.” (emphasis mine)

(“Helicopters Jam the Skies Above Los Angeles,” Adam Nagourney, The New York Times, July 25, 2011)

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