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More Seaplanes in Sag Harbor

Posted on 21 September 2012

By Kathryn G. Menu

 

For the first time in three years, the Village of Sag Harbor received a handful of complaints and issued one citation about seaplanes landing, taking off or taxiing near village beaches. At the same time, according to one seaplane charter service, Sag Harbor has never been a more popular destination and may eventually evolve into becoming a second hub for seaplanes flying into East Hampton from New York City.

“It’s definitely been more of an issue this year,” said Sag Harbor Village Harbor Master Bob Bori in an interview last week.

Bori noted one of the reasons he believes seaplane traffic, and complaints, have risen is because one company – Fly the Whale – actually installed a mooring in a pop up mooring field just outside of the village’s jurisdiction.

While for the most part, Bori said seaplanes have complied with the village’s ordinances, — which prohibit landings and takeoffs in the harbor management zone, 1500 feet from most villages beaches — he added the increase in seaplane traffic does come with concerns from a harbor master’s perspective.

“Well, obviously, my biggest concern is safety,” said Bori. “One of the days, a seaplane came in and it was Sunday afternoon and the kids were sailing at the Breakwater Yacht Club. The seaplane was taxiing right next to the kids in these small sailboats. I know these pilots know what they are doing, but God forbid there was a mechanical issue or something.”

According to Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Thomas Fabiano, this year there have been four complaints logged with the police department through Bori about seaplanes. There were no complaints in either 2010 or 2011, said Chief Fabiano.

For Shaw Road resident John Parker, this summer has been unprecedented in the amount of seaplane traffic he has seen from his waterfront home. One afternoon, Parker and his wife, Joyce, were on their deck when a seaplane flew about 20 to 30 feet over his house, he said.

“We thought we were watching a plane crash,” Parker said. “It just barely cleared the tree in front of our house and landed right near where I moor my boat.”

From there, said Parker, the seaplane taxied to a yellow buoy, indicating a mooring set up in a mooring field outside of Sag Harbor’s jurisdiction, arranged by the seaplane charter company, Fly the Whale.

Parker stressed that while aviation traffic has been a controversial subject on the East End, he is not someone who is opposed to air traffic. Parker was a captain in the air force and a JAG (Judge Advocate General) officer.

“I just want people to be aware of this before there is an accident,” added Parker. “By the end of the summer, we were seeing two or three planes a day, easily.”

He suggested one solution could be designating a seaplane landing zone, far from local beaches and other boats, perhaps near Barcelona Neck in East Hampton – a quick launch service boat ride to Sag Harbor.

Melissa Tomkiel, with Fly the Whale, said her pilots consider safety a top priority and the company arranged the mooring in a different color – yellow – so it would be unique and easy to see from the air.

Having the mooring enabled the three-year-old company to land in Sag Harbor in the event of an emergency, like this summer’s plane crash, said Tomkiel, but also allows them to fly people to Sag Harbor from the East Hampton Airport.

“The reason we got a mooring this year is because there is an increase in demand for Sag Harbor, so we wanted some kind of infrastructure in place,” said Tomkiel. “Our two seaplane captains are Sag Harbor residents, and we maintain a positive relationship with the village launch service.”

Tomkiel added that Fly the Whale has not received any citations despite the complaints and that it is in the company’s best interest to operate safely.

Particularly since, if demand for Sag Harbor service continues, Fly the Whale may start offering direct service from Manhattan to the village using that mooring, Tomkiel said.

According to Sag Harbor Village attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr., outside of the harbor management area, where Fly the Whale has its mooring, Sag Harbor Village has no jurisdiction. Regardless, he said the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees will discuss the issue at its October 9 meeting at 6 p.m.

 

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8 Responses to “More Seaplanes in Sag Harbor”

  1. mr. been there says:

    IM GLAD TO HERE THAT THEY ARE OPERATING THEIR SEAPLANES SAFELY,SEEMS TO ME THAT WOULD BE A PRETTY COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO RUN A SEAPLANE SHUTTLE SERVICE !I THINK THE VILLAGE SHOULD TAKE A FULL PAGE ADD OUT IN ALL THE LOCAL PAPERS TO INFORM THE GENERAL PUBLIC THAT WHAT GOES ON OUTSIDE THE 1,500 FT. BOUNDRY IS JUST THAT, OUT OF THEIR CONTROL.ITS A BIG BAY OUT THERE AND I FEEL THAT THE COMPANY SHOULD MOVE A LITTLE DOWNRANGE FROM WHERE THEY LAND NOW [TOWARDS BARCELONA] BUT THAT MIGHT BE A PROBLEM FOR THE CUSTOMERS. YOU SEE, THE REASON THAT THEY USE THE SERVICE IS SO THE MOST OF THEM,CAN GET OUT HERE FAST AND LEAVE FAST. I THINK IF THEY HAD TO MAKE AN EXTRA 10 MIN. BOAT RIDE WOULD HURT THE BUSSINESS. CAN YOU IMAGINE, THIER TRIP WOULD TAKE LONGER THAN BEFORE, I DONT KNOW IF THEY COULD HANDLE THE EXTENDED TRAVEL TIME ! BUMMER

  2. Bruno Schreck says:

    The SH Express’s use of a badly Photoshopped composite is a violation of journalism ethics. The image is composed to imply a very hazardous situation, which I am sure never occurred. Seaplane pilots are trained to stay well clear of other nautical traffic. The editor should know the difference between journalism and commentary and clearly label the photo as an unrealistic illustration. Barring that, it is no wonder that people would be opposed to the situation as so ridiculously rendered.

  3. Susan McGraw Keber says:

    The photo is not why I am writing. The report of increased seaplane traffic to Sag Harbor is. This trend is compromising issues pertaining to safety as well as noise pollution. If Sag Harbor village doesn’t have jurisdiction over the waters where the seaplanes are landing, what can be done to stop the noise, pollution, and potential for serious accidents?
    The whole area is being deluged with aircraft noise pollution and there is no place that is not assaulted. This article is frightening not because of the photo, but because it is forewarning us all…the 1% who desire to visit are ruining the entire area we call home. This is a disgrace. Make your voice heard if you have a complaint to; QUIET SKIES COALITION at: quietskies@optimum.net. Also: HTO@planenoise.com The airport hotline is 537-LOUD. Our communities here on the South Fork and North Fork are being assaulted.

  4. O.W. Wright says:

    Complete Destruction. Now they want to send sea planes to land at Barcelona Neck, a nature preserve. Although this area has recently been relieved of helicopter traffic, it has been once again been proposed that ALL traffic taking the northern route between EH and points west come around Plum Gut and down Northwest Creek, the same nature preserve as Barcelona Neck. Yes, destroy what so many have fought so hard to preserve to satisfy the convenience of those whose idea of what matters does not go beyond what matters to them. It is sad (or infuriating?) how often financial wealth is accompanied by a poverty of wisdom.

  5. Kathryn Menu says:

    In response to Bruno Schreck’s comment – The image used is not a product of Photoshop and was one of several The Sag Harbor Express obtained in connection with this story.
    - managing editor

  6. Rumrunner says:

    I saw seaplanes landing in the general area the photo deplicts through out the summer. Note, the photographer appears to have used a zoom lens, so you lose the depth of field, making objects look closer to each other.
    I have lived up in northern Maine at Moosehead Lake, and there are designated areas for seaplanes to land on the lake when it’s near a town.

  7. John Parker says:

    My wife took the photo at the top of this article from the deck of our house, which is several houses to the east of Havens Beach, showing a plane flying at a low level over the restricted Harbor Management area and toward the breakwater. We also submitted photos of planes taking off or landing, clearly within the restricted area, where people were swimming, sailing, and paddle boarding. Several showed sailboats from the Breakwater Yacht Club trying to setup for a race in their usual Sunday afternoon location with a seaplane in the way after it had landed right in the path of one of the sailboats.
    One showed a swimmer in the water and the next, taken in sequence, a seaplane landing in the same exact spot a short time later.
    I doubt very much that a seaplane pilot can see a swimmer’s head from the air while landing.
    I also dispute that the “yellow buoy” used by “Fly the Whale” was outside of the restricted Harbor Management Area. For most of the summer it was well to the south of the other buoys in the unrestricted mooring field. For reference, the opening in the breakwater is slightly less than 1500 ft. from shore so it is comparatively easy by sight and/or with a chart and compass, or GPS to determine if an object is within the restricted area. But whether or not the buoy was within the restricted area, the seaplane from Fly the Whale, N208JP, regularly landed, taxied and took off south of that buoy, clearly in the restricted area, both before and after receiving warnings from the Harbor Master.

    What is most disturbing is that there may be plans for increased seaplane traffic next year.

  8. WILLIAM BROWN says:

    Ok, So out of the Harbors jurisdiction means obviously the Company (Fly the Whale) did take the Harbor in consideration, they land “outside of the Harbor”. I don’t understand the fact that this Company brings Tourists to Sag Harbor, which in turn creates help for the Economy of Sag Harbor, yet they are still being hassled over noise, and were they land and taxi. If it is such a concern that something unsafe is going to happen, why not create a seaway, runway for seaplanes and a taxi zone? Place bouys to mark off the area and place caution sign around the area stating the dangers of being close to the seaway/taxi way. This would give the seaplanes a safe waterway to land and taxi, while not effecting safety nor the economy! The noise issue, as long as they operate within decent hours, say 10am-7pm what’s the problem? I mean, set the runway a good football field out and noise shouldn’t be to bad. I myself would love to live where seaplanes were landing everyday, my son is also infatuated with planes. It’s a Job for a couple Sag Harbor residents! Thank you for you time, and listening, Signed William Brown


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