By Kathryn G. Menu
The East Hampton Airport’s seasonal air traffic control tower went live on Wednesday morning, according to East Hampton Town Councilman and airport liaison Dominick Stanzione.
According to Stanzione, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted the town environmental approval to move forward with a permanent air traffic control tower at the airport during the first week of June. This followed a mandatory federal assessment of the environmental impacts placing a permanent — yet seasonal — air traffic control tower at the airport would have on residents.
Prior to this approval, the town was able to operate an air traffic control tower on a temporary basis through the 2012 season, with that permit expiring on October 31, 2012.
Stanzione said the air traffic control tower would operate through September 30. Two air traffic controllers will provide services to aircraft seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., which Stanzione said would enhance the safety of airspace surrounding the airport.
This area is referred to as “Class D” airspace and extends 4.8 nautical miles from the airport in all directions from the ground to an altitude of 2,600 feet. All aircraft operating within these confines are required to contact the tower on the published frequency of 125.225 megahertz.
“Airport management did a terrific job bringing the control tower operational so quickly following FAA approval,” said Councilman Stanzione, in a statement issued on Tuesday.
“This tower manages our airspace and makes our airport safer,” said Jim Brundige, airport manager. “I cannot imagine how anyone, pilots or residents, tolerated operating our airport without a professional, FAA authorized control tower.”
“It’s the most significant professional accomplishment, in regards to safety, of my entire career at the airport,” he said.
Critics, including members of the Quiet Skies Coalition (QSC), maintained throughout a public hearing process regarding the environmental assessment of the tower that it did not go far enough to assess the noise impacts as a result of the airport — impacts that could increase with a permanent, albeit seasonal, air traffic control tower in place.
Critics also called for a cost-benefit analysis of the tower, which will cost over $300,000 annually to maintain and staff.
In other airport related news, the East Hampton Village Preservation Society presented recommendations to the East Hampton Village Board last week for how it believes helicopter and jet noise from the airport could be reduced.
The plan, presented by the society’s chairman Peter Wolf, recommends East Hampton Town not continue to accept any FAA funding. Members of the preservation society and QSC maintain the town could have greater control over its airport if it refused FAA funding. That control could allow the town, the organizations contend, the ability to limit the growth of the airport and potentially impose restrictions.
The society also proposed flights be prohibited from flying over inland bodies of water, such as Georgica Pond in East Hampton, and that the airports hours of operation should be limited to between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Lastly, the society would seek to limit the number of flights in and out of the airport.
The society also plans to present its proposal to the East Hampton Town Board, which has jurisdiction over the airport and its operations.