Grounding Helicopter Amusement Rides

By Paul Gable

Horry County Council will consider a resolution at its July 16, 2013 regular meeting calling for non-renewal of the lease with Huffman Helicopters at Myrtle Beach International Airport with a view to stopping helicopter amusement rides from that location.

The resolution will notify Huffman Helicopter that the county does not intend to renew its current lease for the Myrtle Beach International location when the lease runs out on October 31, 2013.

This will be the first time in recent history, after all the complaints, that an elected body will actually cast a vote on allowing such flights. Many of the opponents have been asking government, at any level, to get involved in the building helicopter noise and safety issues.

Huffman Helicopters has a maintenance shop location at Myrtle Beach International and a helicopter amusement ride at Grand Strand Airport in North Myrtle Beach that will not be affected by the resolution.

Huffman Helicopters has been providing helicopter sight-seeing amusement rides for tourists for the last 10 years from its two locations. It was joined in the area by a third helicopter amusement ride last year, Helicopter Adventures, which operates from Burroughs & Chapin property behind the former NASCAR Café at 21st Ave. North and U.S. 17 Bypass.

Residents at Plantation Pointe and in the south end of Myrtle Beach have been very vocal in recent years over their opposition to the noise generated by these operators.

In the last two years, residents in sub-divisions around Arrowhead Golf Course were successful in defeating a rezoning request that would have resulted in a helicopter amusement ride being located near the former Hard Rock Theme Park site.

Now there are rumors that a new, third operator is looking at three more possible locations, Garden City, Restaurant Row and a third location in Myrtle Beach, for helicopter amusement rides. The Garden City location would tour Murrells Inlet while Restaurant Row would tour Grande Dunes, Pine Lakes and Dunes Club golf courses and immediate locations.

Thirty years ago, the city of Myrtle Beach made the decision that the noise and potential safety hazards associated with helicopter amusement rides did not fit the increasingly urbanized area of the city. There is no zoning which allows these types of businesses within the incorporated area of the city.

Horry County did not address the issue, resulting in the three current operating locations in unincorporated areas but, very near urban and suburban residential locations.

Now the county is playing catch-up. It is much more difficult to gain control of a situation that has already gotten ahead of you, but the first step appears ready to be taken in two weeks.

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