By Stephen J. Kotz
United States Senator Charles E. Schumer and Representative Tim Bishop this week urged the Federal Aviation Administration to renew a rule, set to expire in August, that requires that most helicopters traveling to and from the East End follow an over-the-water route along the North Shore of Long Island.
The federal lawmakers have also asked the FAA to require that helicopters fly east of Orient Point when flying to East Hampton Airport.
“It is imperative that the FAA continues to require helicopter pilots to utilize a route that travels over water rather than residential communities,” said Mr. Bishop in a joint release with Senator Schumer.
“Over the past several years, we, as East End elected officials have banded together to fight for over-the-water helicopter routes to ensure that the least number of homeowners are negatively affected by summertime air traffic and noise,” said Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., in his own press release.
But Jeff Smith, the executive director of the Eastern Regional Helicopter Council, an industry group, said lawmakers’ enthusiasm for the route may be ill-advised.
He said that relations between East Hampton Town and the pilots group, have been improving, with both sides working together to reduce noise complaints.
“The reason there has been improvement” and a reduction in noise complaints “is because we have the ability to work with the town and [airport manager] Jim Brundige to massage the routes,” he said. “If the FAA says you are going to fly this line, we can’t do that.”
Mr. Smith said he feared the new rule would result in more complaints because it would require that pilots pass over Springs and the Village of East Hampton on their way into and out of East Hampton Airport.
“The FAA has to show data that its rules will result in an improved situation, but we have data that shows just the opposite,” he said.