Helipads and you
February 24, 2009 2:38 PM   Subscribe

Do you live near an urban helipad or heliport? Does the noise bother you?

Where are you; city, etc.?
How close to the helipad or heliport are you?
Does the noise wake you up, make it hard to have conversations, hurt your ears, etc.??
How many take-offs and landings are there in a day (approximately)? Do you know what kind of helicopters they are?
Any insight you can provide would be appreciated.
posted by lois1950 to Travel & Transportation (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I used to live less than a block from an urban hospital with a roof helipad. There were a couple flights per day (mostly at night, it seemed) and a lot of sirens.

After a couple weeks I didn't notice it at all. My guests would say it was noisy and hard to sleep, but it just became background noise.
posted by Sheppagus at 2:46 PM on February 24, 2009

I worked right across the street from this heliport (which is pretty active, see link) this past summer, in a 27th floor office directly facing the heliport (building is second from the left here). The sound never bothered me -- I don't even remember noticing it. Of course, maybe the office just had good sound insulation; I have no idea.
posted by grobstein at 2:47 PM on February 24, 2009

I lived next to the Han River in Seoul for a year, it was the path taken by every helicopter into and out of the military bases in Seoul, usually about 50 feet off the water, less than 100 yards from my window...

As mentioned by Sheppagus, after a couple of weeks, I didn't notice it...

As an aside, because of military regulations, all airplanes were routed well around Seoul, I didn't see one for a year, so when I returned the sound of a plane was an oddity for a while...
posted by HuronBob at 2:53 PM on February 24, 2009

I am right by the KIRO news helipad in Seattle. The helicopter is usually only out at rush hour. I never even notice it except for a couple of days a year during the summer, when I have to have the windows open, and for some reason the fricking helicopter hovers around the Space Needle for hours on end. This is always when I'm frantically working against a deadline, and it is maddening. But normally it is no problem.
posted by HotToddy at 3:03 PM on February 24, 2009

Maybe I'm more sensitive to noise than others, but I live on a flight path to a fairly busy general aviation airport, PNE. It's number 3 in the state behind PHL and PGH. It's used for police helicopters and traffic/news-gathering copters. I find the noise extremely irritating. We're near Roosevelt Blvd, a busy urban highway with frequent accidents. The noise of the copters endlessly circling overhead, shooting footage of accident scenes, makes me insane and has woken me from deep sleep. Your mileage, of course, may vary.
posted by fixedgear at 3:03 PM on February 24, 2009

I live about four blocks from an urban hospital with helicopter service. It isn't an hourly or even daily thing, but I'd estimate that I see five helicopter landings a week. Sometimes more, sometimes less. The noise is annoying, but passes pretty quickly unless they can't land for some reason and start circling.

Also, you may be close enough to the ground that street noise is a far, far larger issue. I live on the tenth floor, for example, so the only noise that I hear are the helicopters and particularly loud car alarms.
posted by joyceanmachine at 3:07 PM on February 24, 2009

I live in Los Angeles, not far from the Burbank Airport. There are helicopters flying around constantly.

In terms of noise, imagine a Harley driving in front of your house without a muffler. That's about what they sound like. I'm very disappointed that somehow a surface-to-air missile is not covered in my constitutional right to bear 'arms.'
posted by mullingitover at 3:23 PM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

Just a point of reference but if you really want to compare various other people's experience with yours, you might also consider that whether the helipad is on a tall building or on the ground and whether you, as an observer are in a tall building or on the ground, will make a big difference. The type and height of buildings surrounding the helipad generally will also make a huge difference in terms of sound reflection. Weather, topography, and vegetation will also have an effect.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 3:32 PM on February 24, 2009

I live about three blocks from an urban hospital with a ground level helipad. The noise never bothers anyone in our family, and we all think it's cool watching them land and take-off if we happen to see it. It's never been an issue for us.

I do hear the police helicopters if they're circling in our neighbourhood.
posted by angiep at 3:37 PM on February 24, 2009

There is a medflight helicopter path right over my house to a hospital about 1/2mi away. It sometimes wakes me up in the summer, and it sometimes disrupts conversations. That said, it doesn't bother me much. I know that whoever is in the helicopter probably has it much worse than I do. The dingbats on motorcycles and with the car stereos bother me far more and have much less excuse for the noise.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 3:38 PM on February 24, 2009

I live about a block away from a hospital helipad in a fairly rural area. My landlady calls the thing "the death moth" when it comes which is not at all often [once a month?] When it does come, it's super noisy since it lands about three feet from the road and they have to stop traffic in both directions because it's so close. I'm aware that my experience is probably not typical.
posted by jessamyn at 3:47 PM on February 24, 2009

I live a few blocks away from a hospital with a ground-level helipad. The helicopters almost never bother me, although some of our neighbors, who might be more directly under the flight path, have been known to complain. The sirens from the ambulances are more common and more bothersome.
posted by Squeak Attack at 3:51 PM on February 24, 2009

I live a couple hundred yards from a hospital helicopter landing pad, which sees frequent use but that really depends on what's going on where people may need the service - usually it's a couple flights a day but there have been situations (I think Labor Day weekend was one) where there were two copters tag-teaming the use of the pad. They'll take off and land any which way from the pad, depending on where they're going or coming from. I definitely notice it, but it doesn't bother me that much. However, I think the types of helos they use for medical/rescue service (I've seen a few different types use the pad) are a little different than military, police, or traffic models, with a shorter rotor lentgh so they can more easily land in confined spaces. One of my former co-workers who lives in the same complex as me and was taking pilot training remarked on how quiet the hospital copters are compared to standard models, and I've generally found that to be true - a police chopper, chinook, or sea knight passing a 1/4 mile overhead is way more bothersome than the hospital ones going 100 feet over my roof.
posted by LionIndex at 4:00 PM on February 24, 2009

This chart might give you some idea about how loud they are.

I'm astonished by the number of comments above that say something like "it's never been an issue", "didn't bother me" etc.

It's not like a motorcycle, which is louder, but brief. The duration is much longer (and it's that Doppler effect that's most annoying about them): You can hear them coming from miles away and they get louder and louder and louder until they're just about as loud as you can imagine. And don't forget that, if they're landing near ground level, everything in a several hundred foot radius gets blown all over the place. They can be very messy and cause havoc with ventilation, asthma, etc.

I think it really depends on the kinds of helicopters involved. The newer ones can be rather quiet, but older ones will drive you to drink.

If you have to judge on one thing, make it volume. If it's a once a week affair, I'm sure you'll be fine. If it's daily or more than once a day (and worse, if the helipad is active when you're trying to sleep), you'll go nuts.
posted by elpiconeroalcognac at 4:13 PM on February 24, 2009

I used to live right next to a helipad in Manhattan. It was terrible. We ended up moving.
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:24 PM on February 24, 2009

I used to work at my local police headquarters, and would hear them all the time (both the police helicopter and the air ambulance) - I might have just got used to them, but they never used to bother me.
That said, a while back I worked in Chelsea (London), on the opposite side of the river to Battersea Heliport. Noise wasn't an issue, but seeing large objects falling out of the sky in the latter half of September and October 2001 made my heart beat that little bit faster...
posted by etc at 4:25 PM on February 24, 2009

I work in a building right across the street from a hospital with a helipad on the roof. The helicopters fly right past our windows sometimes, and they are seriously loud. I wouldn't be able to live with that kind of noise if it happened at night.
posted by FishBike at 4:29 PM on February 24, 2009

Like CunningLinguist, I also lived adjacent to the 34th St Helipad (NYUMC Housing) it didn't bother me nearly as much as now living in the direct landing path of Teterboro Airport...
posted by blaneyphoto at 4:32 PM on February 24, 2009

I lived for a year and a half across the street from the world's largest medical center in Houston, TX. The constant presence helicopters never bothered me, and when it's not too hot outside, I kept my windows open.

In Seattle, I live in a highrise near the KIRO newsstation like HotToddy above (and across the street from a firestation, if that matters) and the bedroom windows are open all year long. I am much more bothered by the absence of urban noises (i.e. I can't sleep well in the mountains or with windows that are exceptionally well insulated against noise) than by helicopters, seaplanes, sirens, freeway traffic, and train whistles. The one noise that drove me absolutely crazy was the neighbor's windchime, which I found incredibly maddening (they were kind enough to remove them after I complained).

You'll get used to it--humans are remarkably good at adapting to, well, pretty much anything.
posted by halogen at 4:33 PM on February 24, 2009

For about a year, I lived a quarter-mile away from the helipad for the University of Chicago Hospitals. Two or three times a week, the choppers would come over my building as they landed. They would be flying fairly low as they prepared to land, but they weren't landing right next door, so it'd be sufficiently loud & disruptive that you'd have to pause a conversation but sufficiently brief that you wouldn't lose your train of thought when the noise abated. For comparison, it was not unlike when a semi goes by when you're having a conversation on a city street.
posted by Johnny Assay at 4:41 PM on February 24, 2009

I used to live in Long Island City, across the East River from the 59th Street heliport in Manhattan. Although we were probably a mile from the pad, the copters liked to hang over our building in the mornings, waiting (presumably) for clearance to land. Why they didn't just wait over, say, THE RIVER I'll never know. I HATED HATED HATED it. I never got used to it and moved out as soon as I could.
posted by libraryhead at 4:49 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone! Keep posting; you've got my full attention!
posted by lois1950 at 5:04 PM on February 24, 2009

I lived about three blocks from a helipad (at a hospital). Sometimes it would be so loud, it felt like the helicopter was about to hit my house. It easily happened once every two or three days. It was impossible to talk while the helicopter was flying by, but other than that it did not bother me or my housemates much at all. We really liked our house and our neighborhood so it seemed like a small inconvenience.
posted by val5a at 5:18 PM on February 24, 2009

I live in Baltimore near a hospital with a rooftop helipad. That pad is active maybe 2-3 times a week? the hospital is a specialized center that only gets flights for a very particular kind of injury / when Shock Trauma *and* Hopkins are on divert, which is almost never.

Much more annoying is the constant presence of police and news choppers, which buzz my window pretty frequently. I keep my windows open most of the time, and it can get pretty loud- enough to pause a conversation or a movie. The Maryland State Police use EuroCopter Daupin EC120Bs, as do the Baltimore City Police.
posted by charmcityblues at 5:20 PM on February 24, 2009

I lived for a decade in downtown São Paulo, which has the largest concentration of helicopters, both public and private, in the world. I counted no fewer than five private helipads within a kilometer radius of my apartment. I feel especially qualified to answer this question, although circumstances were peculiar to the city, and hardly serve as the norm. I can tell you that there were more than two dozen 'fly overs' every single day, mostly during the daytime. The hospital nearby obviously saw traffic in the middle of the night and on weekends, while the private helipads tended to be used more during normal business hours.
The helicopters were loud, and when talking on the telephone, conversation would cease for the few moments it took for the copter to pass by. It is such a common occurrence in the city, you don't even need to explain to the party on the other line - you just stop talking as the helicopter roars overhead.
While it was a nuisance, as with most things, you grow used to it. Nowadays, I live in a tiny town in the United States, and a helicopter is a rare occurrence, and normally means that somebody is being transported to the nearby hospital, which implies that they are gravely ill or injured.
Believe it or not, I actually miss the helicopters in São Paulo, but then again, I miss São Paulo in general.
posted by msali at 9:18 AM on February 25, 2009

It's not like a motorcycle, which is louder, but brief. The duration is much longer (and it's that Doppler effect that's most annoying about them): You can hear them coming from miles away and they get louder and louder and louder until they're just about as loud as you can imagine. And don't forget that, if they're landing near ground level, everything in a several hundred foot radius gets blown all over the place. They can be very messy and cause havoc with ventilation, asthma, etc.

Except that's really not what it's like at all. From where I am, a Harley riding by outside my apartment would actually be much more annoying than a helicopter taking off and flying directly overhead. It's probably because they're flying so low around me, but the sound duration is actually quite brief - pretty similar to standing on an open street and having a Harley drive by as far as duration time. Also, they frequently fly right over my ground-level apartment, and we've never had any kinds of problems with rotor wash or anything. I even look at the trees across the canyon, closer to where they take off, to see if they're being molested by wind from the rotors on takeoff, and I can't see them move at all.
posted by LionIndex at 10:06 AM on February 25, 2009

I don't live next to one but I work (outdoors) right across the street from a major Life Flight helipad that stays very busy. It is VERY LOUD. Loud like you can't hear people when they're talking--and they're standing next to you. Loud like you can't hear PA announcements if a 'copter comes by at the wrong moment. I really don't know what it would be like to be living next to one...but outdoors, it's VERY LOUD.
posted by Neofelis at 3:38 PM on February 25, 2009

I don't live near a heliport, but I used to work offshore where multiple daily helicopter flights were the norm. Like anything, you get used to it and soon it's invisible to you.
Same is true for the busy road that ran past my parent's house when I was growing up, you stop noticing it unless someone is tearing past on a motorbike.
It all depends on your tolerance for noise, so YMMV.
posted by arcticseal at 5:59 PM on February 25, 2009

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