Relatively recent changes at Fort Worth-based Bell Helicopter have led to increased air traffic over parts of Tarrant County.
"We have done a lot of consolidation of Bell Helicopter over the last several years," said Brian Chase, Director of Global Public Affairs for Bell Helicopter, "Since about 3 to 4 years ago we've done a lot of work in the North Texas area bringing our office space together; part of that was bringing our flight operations and training activities together."
The Bell Helicopter Training Academy is located on the company's main campus off East Hurst Boulevard in Fort Worth.
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"So, we moved our flight operations for training, as well as, classroom activity back down to our main plant. That was for efficiency within the company, but also because we needed more space for full motion-based simulators," Chase said. "So, a lot of this was driven by that consolidation, so now we're basing our training aircraft down here at our main plant off of Highway 10 in Fort Worth, but our training field still exists up at Justin Field, which is just northwest of Texas Motor Speedway. So, that's why we have to transit up through that space to get to Justin field - as we didn't just about a year and a half ago."
The original flight path took both northbound and southbound helicopters alongside the 377 corridor, but after some voiced concerns, the company shifted northbound air traffic along Rufe Snow Drive.
"As a result of that first pattern, we really knew that we were putting a lot of impact on the 377 corridor based on how we were flying," Chase said. "So, we split that up and were able to reduce that 377 impact really by 50 percent, but it did add helicopter operations up Rufe Snow."
The change was made in late March, and was a change that brought helicopter noise to Karin Benningfield's North Richland Hills neighborhood.
"They get so loud. There's a couple pictures on our wall and a cross that actually rattle when they go over," Benningfield said. "They're pretty low on some days, especially cloudy days."
Benningfield's 19-month-old son naps both morning and afternoon – the times she says the majority of helicopters seem to fly.
"[It] continually wakes up the baby," Benningfield said. "That's why we were noticing it so much, because he would just sit straight up in bed after he should have been asleep."
She understands the need for Bell Helicopter to operate the training, but is hoping for a better solution.
The company says it's looking at several options to help mitigate the noise.
"We're in contact with the FAA and with Alliance Airport right now," Chase said. "We're looking at a variety of ways of how can we continue to gain altitude in certain parts of that route - don't know what the solution is for that just yet. We're also looking at a longer-term solution with the FAA and carving out a special corridor within the airspace of D/FW, but that can be a very long-term process. It's measured typically in years to do that."
"I don't expect - I don't want to tell Bell - 'Hey, I want to live in the country, I want silence,' because I know I don't. I live in the suburbs of Fort Worth and there are people mowing and we have several neighbors with loud mufflers. I get noise in the city. That's not my problem," Benningfield said. "I feel like if we are going to share Tarrant County together, they need to respect us. Their business is important and what they're doing is important, but it doesn't trump just being able to have a quiet neighborhood, not have babies waking up all day long."
Those with questions, comments or concerns can email Bell Helicopter at email@example.com or call 817-280-9009.