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Officials Push for Quieter Southern Route to Airport

Posted on 02 October 2008

By Karl Grossman

 Having substantially more helicopters fly to and from East Hampton Airport on a “southern route”—south of Long Island and over a strip of land which includes Georgica Pond—was a main theme at a meeting of officials last week at the field.

East Hampton Airport has been the biggest source of public complaints about noise generated by commercial helicopters taking people between Manhattan and the Hamptons of any airport on Long Island. Francis Gabreski Airport in Westhampton is the second most troublesome field for chopper noise complaints followed by the Southampton Village helipaid.

Earlier in the year, an agreement was worked out between Congressman Tim Bishop, Senator Charles Schumer and helicopter operators to change the flight paths of the choppers to reduce noise.

 “Now that we’ve had a season under our belt, what is clear is that the numbers of helicopters using a northern route”—one that has included the North Fork and Shelter Island—to and from East Hampton Airport “is 80 percent, while 20 percent have been using the southern route,” said Jon Schneider, aide to Congressman Tim Bishop, a participant at the September 30 meeting. “What can be done to get the numbers closer to 50-50?”

The situation now is “unfair to a lot of North Fork and Shelter Island residents,” said Mr. Schneider. “Ultimately, you have to look at what’s fair.”

The “southern route” would involve, said Mr. Schneider, choppers going to and from Manhattan and East Hampton Airport by flying over the ocean just off the south shore barrier beaches and over the Georgica Pond strip.

But a key issue in getting more helicopters to fly this route is dealing with space restricted to chopper traffic over and near John F. Kennedy Airport in Queens.

 “Tim Bishop and Chuck Schumer’s offices will have to do some lifting on this with the Federal Aviation Agency,” said Suffolk Legislator Edward Romaine of Center Moriches, who was also at the meeting.

Representing Mr. Schumer at the session was his aide Gerry Petrella.

How a route along the ocean and over Georgica Pond would be effective in reducing the noise of helicopters heading to and coming from East Hampton Airport was cited last year in a proposed “Master Plan Report” for the field done by the consulting firm of Savik & Murray of Ronkokoma. “One approach and departure corridor…was found to be substantially better than the existing routes,” said the report. s the report done by route would 

Choppers could, it noted, fly over the Atlantic and “branch off” to “over-fly Georgica Pond” and a thin strip of surrounding land. “This is the minimum sound track,” it said, “and adds little if any flying distance and flight time.”

But the report went on: “It would…expose residents in this area of high value real estate to much greater noise levels than currently exist.”

At the meeting, too, Legislator Romaine said he pressed for federal action to require manufacturers of helicopters to build them with substantially less-noisy engines, similar, he said, to federal mandates to build less noisy fixed-wing jet aircraft.

Among others at the meeting was Jim Brundige, the East Hampton Airport manager.

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