Sag Harbor resident Susan Baran believes the Federal Aviation Administration’s draft plan aimed at regulating helicopter flight paths and curbing the chopper noise that has plagued East End residents for years does not go far enough.
In comments made to the FAA on the proposed “Schumer Rule,” Baran was among hundreds of Sag Harbor and Noyac residents who asked for the regulations to be expanded to include more than one mandatory route for helicopters, as well as higher altitude requirements for pilots.
“We have borne the brunt of the departing traffic for years,” said Baran of the Sag Harbor community. “Our house shakes, windows rattle and conversation is impossible.”
Residents were joined this week by the supervisors of four East End towns, state government leaders, and Congressman Tim Bishop in asking the “Schumer Rule” be expanded in order to aid residents on the East End as well as those further west on Long Island.
Under the proposed regulation, helicopter pilots would be required to follow a northern route one mile offshore over the Long Island Sound to Shoreham where they would split off either to Gabreski Airport in Westhampton, the Southampton Helipad, the Montauk Airport or the East Hampton Airport following voluntary routes established in 2007, some of which bring flights from East Hampton directly over Sag Harbor and Noyac.
Regulations also propose that pilots keep a minimum altitude of 2,500 feet.
Following the FAA’s announcement about the regulations in May, government and community leaders commended the agency for taking action to deal with helicopter noise on Long Island, but almost unanimously were outspoken that a single northern route would unfairly burden a few communities, demanding a southern route to the East Hampton Airport over the ocean and Georgica Pond.
This week, those recommendations became official with East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, Southold Supervisor Scott Russell and Shelter Island Supervisor James Dougherty, all of who submitted a joint response to the FAA asking the agency to support nine recommendations created by the East End Helicopter Noise Stakeholders Group.
Recommendations made by the stakeholders group have received the support of Congressman Tim Bishop, with New York State Senator Ken P. LaValle, New York State Assemblyman Marc Alessi and Suffolk County Legislator Edward Romaine making similar recommendations to the FAA.
According to Southampton Town Councilwoman Nancy Graboski, Senator Charles Schumer’s office was instrumental in setting up the stakeholders group, which included Kathy Cunningham, the chair of the East Hampton Airport Noise Abatement Advisory Committee, East Hampton Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione, Graboski, airport noise abatement advisory committee members Peter Wadsworth and Charles Ehren, and Shelter Island resident Don Kornrumpf, among others.
The stakeholders group asks the FAA to create two mandatory designated routes, one along the North Shore and one along the South Shore, with pilots required to fly one mile from shore on both routes.
“This is essential in order to accommodate the important southerly transition routes from [the East Hampton Airport] and other East End Airports and to equitably distribute the volume of helicopter traffic using the North and South Shore routes,” reads their statement.
Stakeholders recommend that helicopters flying the North Shore route to East Hampton be required to transition east from Plum Gut, and proceed south to Barcelona Neck and over Route 114 to the East Hampton Airport.
Both the East Hampton Airport and Gabreski Airport should also be empowered directly or through the FAA to manage the number of flights coming into their airports at one time, according to the recommendations, and should be allowed to establish curfews for when flights can take-off and land.
They also ask the FAA to establish procedures in coordination with area airports to monitor and enforce compliance with the proposed routes and that any helicopters maintain an altitude of 3,000 feet when flying over land while departing or arriving at any of the local airports. Pilots should also be mandated to follow noise abatement policies established by each airport, states the group.
“Since the FAA has found that the Long Island helicopter noise problem is unique, the present rulemaking must deal expressly with that problem as it relates to the East End Airports,” said Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne Holst in a letter to the FAA. “Current and recent trends indicate that the burden of helicopter traffic centering on [the East Hampton Airport] will increase substantially in future years, further exacerbating the noise problem for the East End.”
The Noyac Civic Council, as well as a number of Sag Harbor and Noyac residents, would also like to see the northern route require pilots to use Orient Point as a waypoint before flying to East Hampton and Montauk airports.
At a Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee meeting on Monday, Graboski praised the FAA for making “a significant move” by beginning the process of regulating helicopter routes to the East End, but noted the regulations as proposed aid residents in western Suffolk County and Nassau County, more than they do the Twin Forks.
The proposals supported by the four supervisors, she said, would round out the regulations to protect residents on the East End as well.
“It was probably one of the more challenging things we have been involved in,” she said.
The deadline for comments to the FAA was June 25. To view comments submitted to the FAA, visit www.regulations.gov and use the keyword FAA-2010-0302.