Orange County commissioners shot down a request this week by Air Force Fun Helicopter Tours to add a larger chopper.
Air Force Fun, one of three helicopter-touring companies flying around the I-Drive tourist corridor, offers a bird's eye view of the theme parks and other Orlando-area attractions.
The attraction's owners sought permission for a seven-seat helicopter because its Robinson R44 has room for just four, including the pilot. But they also wanted flexibility to use both choppers — the small one for couples and a bigger one for parties of three or more.
"The whole purpose of having the larger one is if I get that family of four, I no longer have to do two trips for that same family," manager Erika Duarte said.
Air Force Fun could have reduced its flights last year by 300 if it had both choppers available, she said, but flying only the bigger helicopter would be too expensive to take up for a couple paying for a short tour.
Commissioner Scott Boyd, whose district includes the tourist corridor, offered permission for the larger bird but only if Air Force Fun grounded the smaller one. Air Force Fun rejected that condition.
"I'm trying to be as accommodating as I can and work through this," Boyd said, "but these heli-tour operations have caused a lot of issues [for] my office."
He said residents in the nearby Williamsburg neighborhood have complained about helicopter noise and flights over their homes.
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