Helicopters in Hollywoodland: A Perpetual Noise Overhead

August 2, 2011 § 2 Comments

Embarking on my Helicopter Shot, May 2007/Hope Anderson Productions

During daylight hours, Beachwood Drive is the scene of nonstop  car and truck traffic. It’s especially bad on weekends, when the roar of engines makes the street sound like a speedway, even from indoors.  

Those who live in the upper Canyon have it worse, however, since much of their traffic noise comes from helicopters. Whether the helicopters are being used by the police and fire departments, news channels, tour companies or camera crews, the result is the same: a nerve-wracking rat-tat-tat of blades as they hover overhead. Sometimes they come close enough to make the houses vibrate.

Incredibly, helicopter traffic over Los Angeles is unregulated by the FAA. Anyone with sufficient funds can charter a helicopter and fly wherever he wants, with minimal red tape. I know this because when I did the helicopter shot over Beachwood Canyon for my documentary, “Under the Hollywood Sign,” in 2007, my big logistical hurdle was renting a sophisticated aerial camera and having it rigged. The helicopter company did have to clear the flight plan with the ranger station on Mt. Lee, but that was because I planned to film the Hollywood Sign, front and back, at close range. (Yes, it was awesome; no, I’ll never do it again.)

Since then, the volume of helicopter traffic has increased tremendously. No one is be able to explain why, but there seems to be a helicopter over Beachwood Canyon at all times during the day, and not infrequently at night. According to Hollywoodland resident Martin Smith,

the tour helicopters as well as those that are shooting and therefore hovering, drive everyone up here mad… I have no idea why those that are filming don’t have to warn the residents beforehand… just as any other filming unit has to when shooting in our neighborhood….post 9/11, a no-fly zone seems sensible as the top of Mt. Lee is so essential to LA’s safety.

Soon after I promised Martin I’d write something about helicopter traffic, the New York Times published this article:


In contrast to the ho-hum reaction to prior complaints, the NYT article got an immediate, high-level response–from none other than Rep. Howard Berman, our U.S. Congressman.  He is sponsoring new legislation to regulate helicopter traffic over Los Angeles, something the FAA so far has refused to do:


From your mouth to the FAA’s ears, Congressman.

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