Citizens Organizing Over Helicopter Noise In Tarrant County

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TARRANT COUNTY (CBS11) – Yard signs have started popping up in front of homes in Keller, telling Bell Helicopter to “Stop the Noise.”

Facebook groups are adding members, posting videos of helicopter passes and screen grabs from radar tracking apps.

And people in northern Tarrant County who have complained more than a year about noise from helicopters, are starting to get organized in an effort to speed up a permanent solution to the problem.

“It almost brings me to tears sometimes because of the aggravation, the noise,” said Nancy Lehr, part of a group of residents who met outside Keller’s city hall Wednesday.

Many of those involved are retired, work from home or are home with their kids. They agreed they likely make up the majority of the 2,429 complaints Keller said Bell had logged through February.

But the repetitive flights have become more than a nuisance, they said.

“Day in and day out, I was so frustrated, I didn’t know what to do,” said Cyndi McLaughlin. “I actually wanted to move.”

The noise started in 2015 when Bell consolidated training operations to its headquarters in Fort Worth.

Pilots then had to fly to training air space north of the Texas Motor Speedway. When the flight path along Hwy 377 took helicopters over too many homes, Bell split the traffic, with northbound flights following Rufe Snow Drive. It cut the noise for some, and introduced it to others, like McLaughlin.

“I had no concern because I had no idea,” she said of the initial flights. “Nobody explained what was really happening. It was just a bunch of people who were complaining about air traffic.”

That changed as days and months wore on.

In 2016, CBS11 reported Bell was working with the FAA to fly at higher altitude, something the company later decided was too complex. Suggestions to fly along I-35 were met with a letter from the FAA that it would put helicopters too close to high performance air traffic flying into Alliance airport.

Bell started rerouting louder helicopters to Arlington and Fort Worth Meacham airports when air traffic is lighter, and is sending night flights over I-35 when there is approval from the Alliance Tower.

In an emailed statement Wednesday, Bell said, “We are sensitive to the noise impact of our flight training operations and have tried to balance this concern while maintaining safe operations to and from our north training field.”

The company also repeated that it continues to work toward a permanent solution. A request to the Zoning Commission in Fort Worth Wednesday, may give some insight to that plan.

The request from consulting company Kimley Horn and Associates, asks to rezone about 140 acres of flood plain south of Bell’s headquarters, into a Planned Development. That development would include a “helicopter flight training facility.”

The Fort Worth City Council is scheduled to hear the request May 16.

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