Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. addressed the town board and the public at the presentation of the Phase 1 Noise Analysis Interim Report on Thursday morning.
By Mara Certic
Noise consultants analyzing the aircraft noise problem at East Hampton Airport confirmed Thursday what many airport-critics have claimed in the past few years: the vast majority of helicopter pilots are not complying with voluntary noise abatement procedures, and the problem is very real.
The town’s aviation attorney, Peter Kirsch, and analysts Les Blomberg, Henry Young and Peter Wadsworth presented the Phase 1 Noise Analysis Interim Report on East Hampton Airport to the East Hampton Town Board and to the public simultaneously on the morning of Thursday, October 30.
“This is the kind of process that usually goes on very quietly,” Mr. Kirsch said, explaining that the town board has been adamant about involving the community and seeking public comment at every opportunity.
The analysts used data collected with three programs — AirScene, Vector Airport Solutions and PlaneNoise — to conduct their study of the airport. The airport started using these advanced technologies in 2012, Mr. Kirsch said. AirScene shows flight tracks and directions, Vector allows them to figure out who landed when and PlaneNoise documents all noise complaints.
Using a plethora of different tools and graphs, Mr. Blomberg, of Noise Pollution Clearinghouse, showed the board and a group of concerned citizens how different factors contribute to the noise problem on the East End. As many would suspect, the noise problem is at its worst during summer months, with operations and complaints peaking on Friday and Sunday evenings and early Monday mornings.
When trying to determine the rate of helicopter compliance with the voluntary noise abatement routes, Mr. Blomberg first found that he did not have the data for approximately 40 percent of helicopter flights.
“We don’t have the tail numbers for 2/5 of the flights,” he said. Still, without the missing data, Mr. Blomberg found that overall only 15.3 percent of helicopter pilots comply with height restrictions and the voluntary noise abatement routes.
37.7 percent of those arriving over Georgica Pond comply with voluntary procedures, he said, but that is by far the highest rate of compliance. Only 1.9 percent of those departing over Jessup’s Neck are complying with the voluntary “measures, and just 3.9 percent of helicopters leaving over Barcelona are following those guidelines.
New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who attended the meeting, admonished helicopter pilots for this adding that figures in the single digits does not at all represent good compliance.
Mr. Blomberg identified every property parcel within 10 miles of the airport and then, using the noise criteria from the East Hampton Town Code, determined every time an aircraft caused a noise “exceedance” for each property — the number of times each parcel experiences a noise impact over the limit.
Using this model, Mr. Blomberg found that in 2013, properties within 10 miles of the airport were affected by aircraft noise that measured above town code levels a total of 31.8 million times. This comes down to noise exceeding the daytime limit of 65 dBa 16.7 million times, and going over 50 dBa between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. 15.1 million times.
“There was no operation that did not exceed the noise ordinance at some point,” Mr. Blomberg said, but added the “rattle” effect of helicopters draws more attention to their noise, and are often found to be more annoying.
Mr. Wadsworth, the only volunteer analyst, has been conducting studies of the noise complaints. From January to September of this year, Vector showed there were 22,350 flight operations in and out of the airport. In the same period of time there have been 22,700 complaints. The vast majority of those complaints were for helicopter operations, which in actual fact only account for one third of all aircraft operations.
By looking at where each complaint came from, Mr. Wadsworth determined most airport noise complaints come from the Town of Southampton. At 23 percent, most of the complaints came from Noyac, followed by Sag Harbor at 17 percent, Shelter Island at 15 percent and the North Fork at 13 percent. 12.5 percent of all complaints come from the East Hampton portion of Sag Harbor, he said.
Kathy Cunningham of the Quiet Skies Coalition reminded the town board this is a regional problem that spreads far beyond town boundaries.
“Your first obligation is to us, your constituents,” she said, but added the town simply must factor in all complaints and the effect on the surrounding areas.
The town is actively seeking public comment on the aircraft noise problem and asks the community to make comments and bring potential solutions to future public meetings or to submit written comments to HTOcomments@EHamptonNY.gov