Are helicopters less safe than airplanes


Basic information on the noise of individual aircraft

Noise, the source of which is high above the ground, can spread unhindered across the landscape. For this reason, individual overflights by aircraft and helicopters can also be relevant for noise protection. In contrast to the noise from air traffic systems according to the LSV, there are no immission limit values ​​for the aircraft noise of individual aircraft. In principle, however, the precautionary principle of Article 11 of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) applies to all aircraft. This states that emissions within the framework of precautionary measures are to be limited to the extent that this is technically and operationally possible and economically viable. For civil aviation, this principle is specified in Article 7 of the DETEC Ordinance on Traffic Rules for Aircraft. This stipulates that an aircraft may only cause noise to the extent that it is unavoidable with considerate behavior and proper operation.
The maximum permissible limit values ​​for noise emissions from aircraft are regulated in the "Ordinance on Aircraft Emissions (VEL)" of the Department for the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communication (DETEC). These refer to a globally standardized measurement method and uniform limit values, which are specified in the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention).

Swiss Army

Operations by the Swiss Air Force can be ordered at any time of the day or night. Such missions include search and rescue flights, the air police service, air defense, drone flights to monitor the green national border and support the police forces. Such operations are usually carried out out of an acute need, which is why only limited consideration can be given to noise protection. In the interests of the public, noise pollution as a result of such operations is generally justifiable.
In contrast to the urgent missions of the Air Force, training flights can be planned. In order to cause the least possible noise pollution with such training flights, the Swiss Army has drawn up various regulations. For example, the number of night and supersonic flights is reduced to a minimum. The Air Force provides detailed information on how to reduce aircraft noise on the Swiss Armed Forces website.

Commercial helicopter missions

The possible uses for commercial helicopter flights are very extensive. They are often used to transport goods to inaccessible places; other areas of application are agriculture and forestry and the visual inspection of infrastructure.
If things or people are picked up or dropped off during such operations, a permit from the FOCA to land them abroad is required (Article 1 of the Foreign Landing Ordinance AuLaV). Such commercial use, in contrast to non-commercial use, can also be approved in residential areas. In addition to the approval of the FOCA, the approval of the respective municipality and the respective property owner must also be obtained. When issuing the permit, the municipality takes into account issues of noise and environmental protection as well as the public interest.

Foreign landings

Basically, aircraft take offs and landings at airports and airfields. However, helicopters can also land outside on suitable areas. The Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) issues permits for this, whereby the FOCA differentiates between flights for private and commercial purposes.
In addition to the approval of the FOCA, the approval of the respective municipality and the respective property owner must also be obtained. When issuing the permit, the municipality also takes into account issues of noise and environmental protection as well as the public interest.
According to the Foreign Landing Ordinance, the following flights are exempt from the authorization requirement:

  • Aid, ambulance, rescue and search flights for the purpose of accident or emergency aid
  • Police flights
  • Border guard flights
  • FOCA service flights
  • Business flights of the Swiss Accident Investigation Board
Sightseeing flights and heli-skiing

A few have the pleasure, many others have the noise. Numerous companies offer flights in helicopters and small aircraft for private individuals. Low-level flights over densely populated areas and over untouched natural landscapes are particularly relevant for noise protection. But the latter in particular are extremely attractive for tourists.
In addition to residents and those seeking relaxation, wild animals are also particularly affected by aircraft noise.
For sightseeing flights, the general provisions of the DETEC ordinance on traffic rules for aircraft apply. This ordinance regulates, among other things, the minimum flight altitude and lays down principles for noise abatement.

For flights for tourist purposes with take-offs and landings outside of air traffic facilities, stricter regulations apply according to the foreign landing ordinance; in certain municipalities, take-offs and landing outside of airfields for purely tourist purposes are completely prohibited. In addition, landings and take-offs over 1,100 meters above sea level are only permitted on the mountain landing sites specified by the FOCA.

Some are fascinated by the loops and screws of the aerobatic pilots, others see them only as a source of noise. Aerobatics lead to numerous complaints to the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) every year. In response to this, the FOCA, together with the Swiss Aerobatic Association (SAA) and the Swiss Motor Flight Association (MFVS), developed the "Fascination Aerobatics" code and published it as a leaflet. The noise pollution of the population is to be minimized by means of restricted flight times and locally and temporally dosed, stationary flight training.
Aerobatics in and of itself is regulated by the DETEC ordinance on traffic rules for aircraft.

For aircraft noise from individual aircraft in the sense of everyday noise (noise without limit values), the relevant municipal administration is in principle responsible, in larger municipalities and cities usually their building authorities (noise from buildings and systems) or the security authorities and the police (noise from human activities).

List of municipalities in Switzerland
(Wikipedia; link to the municipal administration in the service column [right] on the municipality details page)

Most municipalities keep the rules of the game on noise within the framework of a municipality or police ordinance.

Example police ordinance (extract from noise protection)

The FOCA is responsible for the emission limit values ​​of aircraft and the approval of foreign landings. In addition, the permission of the respective municipality is required for overseas landings.

Federal Office for Civil Aviation (FOCA)

The Swiss Air Force or its specialist unit for aircraft noise complaints is responsible for aircraft noise from military aircraft and helicopters.

Aircraft noise information center - Swiss Air Force