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Helicopter Noise By Wrigley Driving You Mad? Nothing You Can Do, FAA Says

By Jessica Cabe | October 18, 2017 3:09pm
 Aerial photo of Wrigley Field
Aerial photo of Wrigley Field
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WRIGLEYVILLE — Break out the ear plugs, Wrigleyville: there is nothing anyone can do about all the helicopters and planes flying over the stadium during the Cubs postseason run, which continues Wednesday night — or any other time of year.

So says the FAA, which regulates aircraft but says it can't do anything about the noise.

"Thank you for contacting us to express your concern over the helicopter traffic in the area around Wrigley Field," reads an email sent Wednesday morning to a resident who complained about the noise at 11 p.m. Tuesday during the Cubs-Dodgers game. "Unfortunately, the FAA cannot prevent helicopters from flying in the area if operated in a safe manner."

That was harsh news to the resident, who compared the FAA's response to the government saying "tough sh--."

"I understand the pros and cons of living near Wrigley, but helicopters at all hours is not what I signed up for," said the resident, who asked not to be named. "I live 5 blocks west of Wrigley and it’s so loud — I can’t imagine what it’s like for residents who live closer."

The resident was initially encouraged to contact the FAA earlier this month, when Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) sent out an email newsletter urging neighbors to contact the FAA with all aircraft noise complaints.

Tunney explained that he's been working with U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley's office, the Chicago Aviation Department and the FAA to find solutions to the noise problem, and in order to support those efforts, people affected by aircraft noise should call the DuPage Flight Standards District Office of the FAA.

Tunney's newsletter did make it clear that complaining to the FAA was to support his efforts to get restrictions put in place in the future, not to get immediate results.

Tunney initially reached out to the FAA in April through a letter expressing concerns about aircraft noise, but there was no reply from the FAA until Chris Jessup, director of public safety and community affairs for the 44th Ward, asked the Chicago Department of Aviation to intervene again and get a conference call scheduled with the FAA and Rep. Quigley's office.

That call took place Oct. 6, and an Oct. 11 letter from the FAA in response to Tunney reads, "The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Flight Standards division, in part, is responsible for providing safety oversight of air operators. They cannot prevent or reduce helicopter operations when operated in a safe manner."

The letter also mentions that for security purposes, there is a flight restriction in effect on game days starting an hour before the game begins and continuing for an hour after it ends. The flight prohibition extends more than three miles from the center of the field and up to 2,500 feet above ground level.

Outside of that timeframe, however, there is no restriction on aircraft flying around Wrigley, no matter what the time of day. And some aircraft have waivers allowing them to fly despite the rule.

The email to the resident Wednesday morning repeated the fact that the FAA can't prevent safe aircrafts from flying in the area but said the FAA had contacted all local news organizations, sightseeing operators and banner tow operators to request they consider the noise aspects of their flights — and try to vary altitudes and flight paths — but ultimately it's up to those entities to decide whether or not to fly around Wrigley.

For noise concerns, the email recommended contacting the FAA's Aviation Noise Ombudsman at 9-AWA-NoiseOmbudsman@faa.gov or 202-267-3521.

Jessup said the number of complaints have not let up.

"Unfortunately, the noise complaints continue," Jessup said in an email. "Because airspace remains a federal issue, we'll continue working with Congressman Quigley and the FAA to take a more aggressive role in addressing this issue." 

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