Tuesday, June 20, 2000

Kings Island helicopter ride upsets neighbors

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Brian Bolton, 9, talks to the pilot as they come in for a landing at Kings Island.
(Luis Sanchez photo)
| ZOOM |
        MASON — Most of the talk at Paramount's Kings Island this summer has been about the park's 218-foot-tall, looping wooden roller coaster, Son of Beast. But neighbors of the amusement park say another new, high-rising attraction is giving them headaches.

        Kings Island's new Flight Team, which offers visitors a helicopter tour of the park, is raising the ire of a group of homeowners who live adjacent to the park in Deerfield Township. The issue is noise.

        Tim Heidel, 34, a resident of the Riverwood Trails subdivision, said the din generated by helicopters buzzing his home is more than he can bear. He said the noise is destroying the peaceful, country ambiance many residents paid more than $200,000 to enjoy.

        “It's like Vietnam or something out of that movie Apocalypse Now,” said Mr. Heidel, who bought a home on Riverwood Trails Drive about a year ago. “I feel like we are constantly under assault from the noise that these helicopters produce. It gets so loud sometimes I can't even hear my television.”

        Mr. Heidel is one of several residents of the 57-home subdivision just north of Kings Island who have considered circulating a petition protesting the new attraction. He said he's contacted Kings Island, township officials and even the Federal Aviation Administration to try and resolve the issue.

        J.R. Aviation Inc., based in Louisville, Ky., started offering flights at Kings Island in April. Flight Team takes park guests over the park, and even to Cincinnati and Dayton, flying at 2,000 feet in a Robinson R44 Raven helicopter.

        Flights cost $25-$155 per person and last from two to 45 minutes, depending on the tour selection. Up to six helicopter trips are given every hour, park officials estimate.

        “It's becoming a very popular attraction for us,” park spokesman Jeff Siebert said. Kings Island is the first theme park in the country to offer helicopter tours, officials said. At one time, the major fairs across the country had helicopter rides, but most were forced to drop them because of noise concerns.

        Jim Robinson, president of J.R. Aviation, said noise has seldom been a problem for his company, which has offered flights at the Kentucky State Fair in the past.

        “I think the problem may be more seeing than hearing,” said Mr. Robinson. He thinks his operation sometimes gets blamed for noise generated by other aircraft flying over the area. He said the R44 Raven, developed in Southern California, is quieter than the average helicopter.

        Mr. Robinson has met with several residents to discuss the issue and try to come up with solutions. Recently, he altered the flight route of his helicopter — which now flies over Interstate 71 — to try to address residents' concerns.

        “We are making a sincere effort to appease these people,” said Mr. Robinson. “We want to make this work for everyone. We are not approaching this with a "deal with it' attitude because Kings Island was there before any of those houses. We want to be a good neighbor.”

        But Mark Lemperle, also a resident of Riverwood Trails, said changing the flight path might not be enough.

        “By doing that, they may not be flying directly over my house anymore, but they are still flying over somebody else's and that's not fair either,” he said.

        Mr. Lemperle, who claims a helicopter flies over his home every 10-15 minutes, likens the clamor to being in an airport. He suggested that Kings Island limit helicopter rides to daytime hours and move the landing strip farther from residences, because the noise is loudest during the helicopter's takeoffs and landings.

        But not everyone is affected by the noise. Guy and Joyce Waldron have mixed feelings about Flight Team.

        “It bothers my husband sometimes, but it never bothers me,” said Mrs. Waldron, noting it's only audible to her when she's outdoors. " “To me, it really isn't that big of a deal.'

        Other residents said they've noticed a major difference in noise levels since Kings Island altered the helicopter's flight path.

        Mr. Siebert said Kings Island will continue to review alternatives, including further modifying flight routes and flying the helicopters at a higher altitude.

        “We've been a great neighbor for the past 28 years and we want that to continue,” Mr. Siebert said.


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