Keller Citizen

Keller, Bell Helicopter come to agreement after noise complaints

Bell helicopter and the city of Keller have reached an agreement about the number of flights over north Fort Worth and Keller.
Bell helicopter and the city of Keller have reached an agreement about the number of flights over north Fort Worth and Keller. Star-Telegram archives

Bell Helicopter and the city of Keller have come to an agreement aimed at alleviating the many noise complaints of residents about loud helicopters flying over the city.

After some company changes early this year, Bell began flying many helicopters from its headquarters in east Fort Worth to Alliance Airport in far north Fort Worth for advanced training, Keller Mayor Mark Mathews said. They flew up and down the U.S. 377 corridor — about 40 flights per day, five days a week. Though their flight patterns were legal, the helicopters often loudly disturbed residents in Keller and Fort Worth.

“Some days, when it was clear and warm, you could barely hear them at all,” Mathews said. “Other days that were cloudy and humid, people reported they could see the pilot.”

Residents’ complaints piled up quickly, and the city of Keller sought meetings with Bell management to see if changes could be made.

“It’s a being-a-good-neighbor type of issue,” Mathews said. “The best way to do this is meet and come up with new options. We’re continuing to work on it.”

The city met with Bell officials several times this year, and recently, Bell agreed with the city to reduce the number of trips the helicopters take over Keller on a daily basis by roughly 15 percent.

Northbound flights will follow the Rufe Snow Drive route while southbound ones will follow U.S. 377. Bell’s louder twin-engine choppers will be flown to other airports, so they won’t be flying over Keller. And on low cloud days, half of Bell’s trips will be diverted to other airports.

Bell also is working on a proposal to the Federal Aviation Administration that would allow its helicopters to fly higher, but the proposal process is expected to take three to six months.

Mathews said “Bell was getting blamed for every helicopter over town, but they weren’t all them.”

Bell’s website has an equipment tracker, Mathews said, that will help show the public “this is when they fly and where they go.”

Mathews said the issue is especially important to Keller because unlike cities nearby, it usually hasn’t had much air traffic.

“A number of people chose Keller because we weren’t in the flight patterns of DFW or any other airports, but now we are,” Mathews said. “The impact to them is very real and certainly can seem pretty intense to them, going from none to many on a regular basis.”

Mathews said he is “unsure of the long-term solution” to the issue, but they’re still “working to minimize the impact.”

Bell representatives could not be reached for comment. For more information, visit www.bellhelicopter.com/noise.

Mark David Smith: 817-390-7808, @MarkSmith_FWST

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