South Austin residents fighting helicopter flight plan during Formula 1



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Posted on October 30, 2012 at 6:48 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 31 at 12:33 PM

AUSTIN -- There is concern over whether helicopters should be allowed to fly over Austin neighborhoods during Formula 1 weekend.

Currently two applications for temporary helipads are pending -- one at Congress and Barton Springs and the other off MoPac and 2244.

According to the Austin Aviation Department, approval of the application comes solely from its executive director Jim Smith.

Concerns over the ambiguity of the city code concerning this authority was brought up at last week's Austin City Council meeting. The FAA does have to sign off on the plan.

Members of the Austin City Council met with Smith Tuesday.

"I am very concerned about the application to allow an estimated 200 helicopter flights over residential neighborhoods. Such noise and disruption would have a substantial negative impact on those residents' quality of life during that weekend," Council Member Kathie Tovo said in a statement.

Residents who live near the proposed MoPac helipad site have been making noise about their quality of life.

John Luther is a member of the Barton Hills Neighborhood Association. "While the neighborhood was not included in the planning process, it's basically sitting just across the greenbelt from our neighborhood," he said.

Luther further objects to the proposed landing near his home because the company applying for the permit, McRae Aviation Services, is a private company.

"That's one of our concerns; this is a strictly for-profit deal. Our neighborhood is not for sale,"  Luther said.

Luther says his neighborhood endorses festivals including Austin City Limits in nearby Zilker Park. It's the flyovers with advertisements his association is against. He says helicopters during F1 would be worse.

A decision on whether the helicopters can land there is expected soon. So far no applications for temporary helipads have been approved. Two have been declined from various charter agencies -- one at the Littlefield Building at 6th Street and Congress and one at Zilker park.