I’ve been following the issue of a proposed private helipad for some time now, and haven’t seen the following take on it ("Proposed Palmaz helipad sparks big turnout at meeting," Jan. 17). This is part of my remarks to the assemblage of folks at the Scoping Meeting on Jan. 14, as well as my written submission to Ms. Dana Ayers, the planner overseeing the permit application. The intent was/is to have it included for consideration in the environmental impact report (EIR).
"Dear Ms. Ayers,
I wish to address a subject apparently not covered in the "Hazards and Hazardous Materials” section of the Draft EIR; specifically, the dangers posed by bird strikes. The project location is in a rural area that is heavily utilized by dozens of bird species for breeding, nesting, feeding and transit. Some of them are quite large, such as egrets, herons, raptors, turkey vultures, seagulls and various waterfowl (such as ducks and geese). The proposed arrival and departure procedures directly overfly the Napa Valley Country Club and many surrounding parcels that provide historical habitat for these birds.
As a pilot for almost 50 years, I have flown over 70 types of aircraft, military and civilian, including six types of helicopters. I have experienced many bird strikes, including two at the Napa County Airport, one of which was at night at an altitude of 2,800 feet directly over the field.
Bird encounters have caused even large commercial airliners to be heavily damaged, or even crash. A light helicopter operating in a high-bird-density area, especially not associated with an active airport, is just asking for trouble. In fact, no FAA bird strike safety standards exist for helicopters weighing less than 7,000 lbs, which includes the proposed Bell 429 Global Ranger.
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A Dec. 28 article in the Napa Valley Register (“FAA seeks industry help as helicopter bird strikes increase”) explains these dangers in detail. A crash would certainly effect the health, safety and welfare of persons anywhere near the proposed flightpaths.”
As an interesting side note, there were plenty of comments about the dangers to birds, and Ms. Ayers even asked me if I was referring to their welfare. I assured her that my concerns lie not with the birds, whose fate was sealed in any event by a collision, but with the safety of those on board the aircraft, as well as those on the ground should they be involved in the subsequent accident, regardless of where that might occur.