BEND, Ore. - While the Bend Municipal Airport is proposing an expanded helicopter area, dozens of neighbors showed up at an open house Monday night, many upset by the helicopter noise they already have to put up with.
The open house at the Bend Municipal Court was called to discuss the process of of an upcoming environmental assessment for the proposed new helicopter area on the northeast part of the airport property.
The assessment is required and done by the Federal Aviation Administration for any improvements proposed at the airport.
Airport Manager Gary Judd says the latest master plan calls for the construction of a new helicopter landing area, taxi lanes, aircraft parking apron and other facilities to improve efficiency and safety at the airport.
Currently, the planes and helicopters have to cross paths at the airport. The improvements would give each type of aircraft its own designated space, he said.
In 2010, helicopter activity was estimated to be about 40 percent of the annual operations. By 2015, the airport expects that number to grow to 45 percent.
Those who live near the airport are concerned the new construction could bring more noise -- and many are not happy with the situation already. Some are even talking about taking legal action over the issue.
"I had my house re-roofed this fall," homeowner Anne Pelham said. "The roofer said, 'Anne, I don't know how you take it.' It's a nightmare."
Pelham and her husband live west of the airport and say helicopter noise has steadily increased over the past few years. She says the helicopters run the same pattern day and now night.
"They can fly where they want and do what they want -- it's not right," Pelham said.
But Judd says once the pilots leave the ground, the airport has no jurisdiction to say where they can and can not fly.
"We go out and visit with the pilots, talk to flight instructors, talk to the operators and do what we can to try and mitigate it," Judd said.
At Monday night's meeting, about 40 frustrated neighbors voiced the same concerns over noise. Some said they are worried the value of their property will decrease if more helicopters move the Bend.
Others expressed concern for the area's red-tailed hawks and bald eagles, saying many of the area's raptors have left.
"If they would take off and go like the airplanes do, it would not be problem," Pelham said.
Judd says Monday night's meeting was not required of the airport. He says they wanted to keep the community involved with the entire process.
"I think that we had really excellent community input," he said. "That was the purpose of having the meeting, to get out in front of it -- this is actually before any process has started."
The FAA is set to begin its environmental assessment soon. The first draft could be done by the middle of July.
For more about the proposed project CLICK HERE
To file a noise complaint with the airport CLICK HERE