Last month, we reported on a New York state supreme court order that halted the municipal plan to close East Hampton Airport and reopen it as a publicly funded, private-use facility. Now, in response to that court order and other litigation, the town is asking the FAA to allow closure of the airport outright, “as soon as legally possible.” It bears noting that the town’s grant assurances and agreements with the FAA expired on September 25, 2021, thus technically freeing the town to pursue operational restrictions.
And restrictions are exactly what the town wants. According to a presentation by the town’s “airport counsel” last week, the town of East Hampton is facing legal threats in the form of five state course cases, one federal case and two administrative cases before the FAA, because it sought to reduce airport operations by approving select aircraft and operators in advance. “If the community’s desire for a balanced airport will not be imminently achieved, the town has instructed counsel to begin the process of permanently closing [the airport],” stated a presentation by attorney Bill O’Connor.
A little online research reveals that a substantial, er, volume of complaints about Hampton’s aircraft noise centers on helicopter traffic, which has increased in recent years thanks partly to the arrival of app-driven low-cost helicopter carriers like Blade, which enable users to purchase an open seat on a chopper ride to and from nearby large cities to destinations like East Hampton. Helicopters routinely cruise much lower than even float-equipped commuter airplanes, often no more than 500’ AGL, and obviously generate a sizable sonic impact in the process.