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TARRANT COUNTY (CBS11) – Bell Helicopter is planning to ask the Federal Aviation Administration to let pilots at its training academy fly at a higher altitude, after noise complaints from residents and cities in Tarrant County.
The helicopter manufacturer also hired an engineering firm, deployed noise monitors and changed routes in an effort to reduce noise.
Concerns over the flights started to increase last year after Bell consolidated its training academy at its headquarters in east Fort Worth.
Pilots had to fly north to train in airspace near the Texas Motor Speedway. The flight path along US 377 took helicopters over heavily developed commercial and residential areas.
Ken Eagle, in Fort Worth’s Park Glen neighborhood, said flights were low enough to shake the house at times.
“My grandson and I were hitting golf balls several times, and ‘Papa, hit em hit em’,” he said. “He thinks I could hit em.”
A City of Keller newsletter said the noise from the flights was not out of compliance with any noise ordinance.
Bell decided in late March though to spread out the routes. Northbound flights now travel over Rufe Snow Drive. Southbound flights are continuing to follow US 377.
“The pilots have that direction on how they fly,” said Bell’s Brian Chase. “We are in contact on almost a daily basis to ensure that route is being respected.”
Chase said pilots have also been directed to fly over the center line of roads, rather than over the neighborhoods that border them. Keller’s newsletter said Bell has installed GPS trackers on several helicopters to track their paths.
Directing pilots to fly at a higher altitude is a more complicated task though.
Airspace requirements for DFW International, Meacham and Alliance airports can all impact the current path.
Air traffic approaching Alliance is what keeps helicopter pilots right now from using I-35 as a flight path to the training area. Chase said the company is planning to request that the FAA carve out a space allowing helicopter pilots to ascend another 300 to 800 feet.
Bell has set up a dedicated phone line at 817-280-9009, and email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, for residents with more concerns about the operations.
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