Tag Archive | "FAA"

Elected Officials Ask FAA to Make Helicopter Route Rules Permanent

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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.

Committee Says Airport Can Stand on its Own

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By Stephen J. Kotz

Members of East Hampton’s budget and financial advisory committee dropped a bit of a bombshell on Tuesday when they told the town board that the town would be able to continue operating the airport for the foreseeable future without accepting additional funding from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Whether the town could afford to maintain the facility without federal largesse has long been a bone of contention, with airport supporters saying the grants are needed to maintain the airport and opponents saying the town will not be able to control the facility as long as it continues accepting federal aid and the restrictions that come with it.

“Some people held the conclusion that the airport would fall apart if you did not take FAA money. This report disproves that,” said Supervisor Larry Cantwell, who nonetheless added he would not close the door on the possibility the town would need FAA funding in the future.

“Clearly, your financial analysis shows we can move forward at least in the immediate and interim future, that we can finance the airport, that we can keep it safe, and that we can make the improvements that are absolutely necessary and do that for some period of time without taking FAA money,” he said.

The report was presented to the board by Arthur Malman, the chairman of the budget advisory committee, and Peter Wadsworth, one of its authors, who told the board the airport will be able to generate enough cash flow to adequately cover its long term debt servicing needs.

Both men stressed that the group that worked on the report represented a cross-section of airport supporters and opponents and had reached their conclusion unanimously.

In compiling the report, the committee assumed varying scenarios, ranging from no changes in airport traffic to one in which there were no helicopter flights. They also assumed that the town could realize modest revenue growth by raising fees to offset expected increases in expenses.

The scenario is even more rosy, Mr. Wadsworth said, if the town takes advantage of a number of options to enhance revenue from the airport. Among the options the committee found beside raising landing fees and fuel charges include requiring paid parking, renegotiating hangar leases, possibly adding additional hangars, developing 15 vacant lots on Industrial Road as well as the potential for developing a massive solar farm on the northern end of the airport.

Mr. Malman added that the airport property encompasses some 600 acres, with much of it zoned for industrial uses, which is in high demand. He added, though, that any development schemes would require careful analysis by the town’s planning and natural resources departments.

He added that the town has the potential to turn the airport into a major source of revenue, when the last of the FAA grant restrictions expire in 2022. Because of those restrictions, any revenue raised at the airport must be spent there. But after they expire, the town would be able to use operating surpluses to reduce taxes.

“It may become a very significant source of nontax revenue,” he said. “The bad news is there has to be a little thought given as to how you set this thing up” to make sure the airport properly maintained.

Airport Tower Moves Forward

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web_EH Airport Traffic 3-23-12_6090

By Kathryn G. Menu


In an effort to reduce noise and increase safety, East Hampton Town is moving forward with plans to install a seasonal air traffic control tower at East Hampton Airport this summer.

However, while the town is making headway in that arena, a debate over whether or not it should continue to accept Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grant monies came to a head last week. That’s because the town board stalled in passing a resolution to allow it to seek three new grants from the FAA for capital improvements.

During a town board work session on Tuesday, March 20 the generally united Republican majority on the board failed to come together to pass a resolution proposed by airport liaison, Councilman Dominick Stanzione.

Stanzione hoped to gain approval to apply for new grant applications to the FAA to repair the closed 4-22 runway, for the construction of a perimeter deer fence and for capital improvements at the airport. But he failed to gain the support of Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Deputy Supervisor Theresa Quigley.

Supervisor Wilkinson said he would like to consult with the town’s aviation attorney, Peter Kirsch, in light of a memo from the FAA to Congressman Tim Bishop. The memo outlined the ability of the town to impose restrictions at the airport once some of its existing grant contracts with the FAA expire in 2014.

Democratic town board members, Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc, have long supported stalling any new FAA grants while the effectiveness of the control tower and other noise abatement programs are assessed.

Stanzione, who has been working with Kirsch and the FAA to create a noise abatement plan, was able to secure approval to contract with three different firms that will assess the airport in different ways.

According to Stanzione, the town board has agreed to contract with Plane Noise and AirScene, companies that will monitor noise complaints and correspond those with arriving and departing aircrafts to compile data on noise stemming from the airport.

Vector Solutions was also hired by the board to create an automated billing system for airport users, which will not only create a more professional cash management system, said Stanzione, but will enable the town to track airport use.

Lastly, the town also agreed to hire Robinson Aviation to operate the seasonal control tower at East Hampton Airport at a cost of $342,600 a year.

The air traffic control tower still needs FAA approval, noted Stanzione. However, earlier this month, the agency took a step towards that reality when it published a formal notice in the Federal Register regarding the re-designation of the airport.

According to the notice, in the summer season the East Hampton Airport would be designated a Class D Airport. That will create a more restrictive airspace in a five-mile radius around the airport and require a minimum altitude of 2,500-feet for aircraft.

The airport would revert back to a Class E designation during the off-season. Comments on the FAA’s proposal are being accepted through this Friday, April 30.

“The control tower is about addressing safety and noise,” said Stanzione. “Traffic creates noise and if we can manage the altitudes of aircraft using the airport it is expected this will have a significant impact in terms of noise mitigation.”

In terms of whether or not to accept FAA funding for capital improvements, Stanzione said he remains persuaded that the town can continue to accept funding and still have control.

“Mainly, I support our FAA policy of pursuing grant funding while implementing a 43-point noise mitigation plan that down the line includes airport restrictions, but provides for the safest, most financially feasible and quickest path to providing for local control over the airport,” said Stanzione.

Members of the Committee to Stop Airport Expansion and the Quiet Skies Coalition have urged the current town board to rescind that resolution. The fear, according to Quiet Skies Coalition chairwoman Kathy Cunningham, is, if the grant goes through, the town will have an additional 20-years before it can place restrictions like curfews or prohibit certain aircraft from landing at the airport.

The Committee to Stop Airport Expansion has filed suit to prevent the town from accepting new funding. Earlier this month, its request for a temporary restraining order was rejected in court for a third time, although an application for a preliminary injunction remains on the table.

On Wednesday, Cunningham said she believes the FAA memo to Bishop demonstrates that the town will be able to enact “reasonable airport regulations” come December 2014 when some grant restrictions expires.

Cunningham noted that creating a noise abatement plan for the airport — termed a “Part 161” — has been upheld in only one community, Naples, Florida, and it was litigated.

“And now we have answers from the FAA,” said Cunningham. “They are saying that in no uncertain terms they will not take action against the town once the grant assurances expire in 2014.”

Cunningham said that state case law backs up that position, pointing to a legal dispute between a helicopter organization and the City of New York, which restricted helicopters and, not being bound by an FAA contract, won the right to keep those restrictions.

“We are not trying to shut down the airport,” Cunningham stressed. “But we have to deal with these very real issues affecting our quality of life.”

Heated Hearing on the Airport

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By Karl Grossman

East Hampton Airport — it’s the biggest noisemaker on eastern Long Island.

It gets the lion’s share of the helicopters that ferry some very privileged people between Manhattan and the Hamptons — flying low and loud over Suffolk County. The machines roar over Brookhaven Town, then western Southampton and Riverhead, then the North and the South Forks and Shelter Island.

The chopper traffic is a relatively new phenomenon that has gotten completely out of hand.

They also fly to and from Gabreski Airport in Westhampton and Southampton Village’s helipad, but the main destination is the East Hampton Airport.

And the East Hampton community — at chopper ground zero — is at a crossroads.

“Our peaceful quality of life is threatened by airport noise,” declared a statement from Joan Osborne, vice president of the East Hampton Village Preservation Society, at a public hearing held by the East Hampton Town Board last week.

The hearing was ostensibly about a new deer fence at the airport. But a far broader issue was involved: whether the town should take money from the Federal Aviation Administration to buy the fence which would kick in continuing FAA authority over the field.

Like many a federal regulatory agency, the FAA is a lapdog, not a watchdog, of what it’s supposed to regulate. It’s in a conflict of interest being a booster of aviation and somehow, at the same time, regulating it. As for aviation noise, it does “a poor job,” says the national Noise Pollution Clearinghouse, and should “turn that responsibility over to the EPA.”

Whether East Hampton should keep accepting money from the FAA and allow the FAA to remain in control of the town-owned airport was a main issue in the recent town election. Organizations including the Quiet Skies Coalition, along with the Democratic candidates for town office, called for East Hampton to cut it off with the FAA and gain control of the field — and then limit the number of airport operations, impose a curfew and exclude aircraft deemed too noisy (spelled: helicopters).

The incumbent Republican Supervisor, Bill Wilkinson, survived by only 15 votes. But from its cocky stance at last Thursday’s hearing, you wouldn’t know the GOP-run board came within a political inch of being upset.

There was an overflow crowd at East Hampton Town Hall and that was expected, but the hearing wasn’t switched to a larger meeting hall as is common when there’s a public meeting on a red-hot controversy in a Long Island town. There was no loudspeaker letting people who couldn’t get into the room and were left standing outside to hear what was happening. And Mr. Wilkinson and allies on the board were especially sensitive when Jeff Bragman, attorney for the Committee to Stop Airport Expansion, charged the board sought to rush its decision. He was then emphatically told his time was up although other speakers went past their allotted three minutes without such a fiery reaction.

Before that, Mr. Bragman talked about “the ultra-luxury travelers in helicopters.” The choppers coming into East Hampton “sound like the [helicopter] attack scene in Apocalypse Now.” As to the FAA, “Do you think they care a hoot about controlling noise?”

And he spoke against “just shuffling around” flights by varying routes when, he said, what’s needed is “fundamental change.” The town should stop taking money from the FAA and be able to exercise independent control. “You have the power to do it!”

But a main point of Mr. Bragman — that in 2014 East Hampton’s current obligations to the FAA will expire and the town could control the field — was contested by a town legal consultant. Attorney Peter Hirsch of Denver said “the town is grant-obligated to the FAA” to “2021 or later,” indeed some of the obligations “are permanent” and “never expire.” He claimed federal law pre-empts localities on aviation. And “because of the federal law, the only way” the town could control its field, he said, would be by “closing the airport.”

If that’s the only thing that can be done, it should be: the noisemaker should be shut down. The East Hampton Airport is far from being a public transportation center.  It services a very select few — with much noise. It constitutes, like a raucous racetrack, a public nuisance — and not only for people in East Hampton, but for folks throughout eastern Long Island.


East Hampton Schedules Public Hearing to Take FAA Funding

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Whether or not the Town of East Hampton should accept more funding from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to pay for improvements at The East Hampton Airport was one of the biggest political issues in an East Hampton Town election that has yet to be decided.

Despite the fact that the town supervisor’s race is still undecided — as is what political party will dominate the East Hampton Town Board — last Thursday the current board passed a resolution to host a public hearing on December 1 on whether or not it should accept more money from the FAA.

Opponents have argued doing so will extend the FAA’s control over the airport and prohibit the town board from controlling issues like curfews past the 2014 date when FAA grant assurances will expire.

On Thursday night, airport liaison and town board member Dominick Stanzione introduced the resolution, which was passed, that allows the public hearing to be held on December 1 at 7 p.m.

According to Stanzione, the town will seek funding from the FAA to update a deer fence at the airport in the wake of an August accident where a small plane collided with three deer at the airport. The incident resulted in no injuries.

Quickly after Thursday night’s town board meeting, the Quiet Skies Coalition — a group of East Hampton and Southampton residents who campaigned heavily to prevent the growth of the airport and assert more local control over the airspace around it — shot out an email to its constituency advising them of the hearing.

“The urgency for a decision on FAA funding is questionable, and the impetus appears to be entirely political, in the event Wilkinson should lose his seat as Supervisor,” the organization’s email alleges. “There is no other urgency to call a public meeting about capital improvements to a fence. There have been only three deer strikes recorded at FAA over the past 10 years, only one of which caused any damage. One can only conclude therefore that this is not about the fence.”

The organization questioned the urgency of the hearing given that the airport boasts a $1.5 million surplus.



Stanzione Says Report Shows Economic Benefits of Airport

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For many years, and certainly this political season, the benefits and detriments
of the growing East Hampton Airport has resulted in lively discussion. However,
according to East Hampton Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione, one issue
that should not be up for debate is whether or not the airport is a significant
contributor to the town’s overall economy.
Last week, Stanzione put out a press release detailing a report issued by the
New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) in May that details the
economic impact the airport has on the region.
According to the report — NYS Economic Impacts of Aviation issued by
Joan McDonald, Commissioner of the NYSDOT — concluded that the airport is
responsible, indirectly and directly, for the creation of 91 local jobs and brings
$12.6 million into the local economy.
The study was meant to detail the economic impacts over 80 airports in
the state have on their regions. It concluded the Wainscott-based airport was
responsible for the creation of 65 jobs, with another 26 jobs created indirectly by
the airport and the businesses its infrastructure supports. The income generated
by that employment totals $5,812,800, according to the report.
In total, when taking into account expenditures at the airport and at businesses
outside the airport, the report concludes the airport brings in $12,806,100
annually throughout the East Hampton economy.
Stanzione described the report’s conclusion as “important evidence of the
economic contribution our airport makes to every taxpayer in our community.”
“There are few, if any, other economic enterprises that can compete with that
performance,” he added.
The release comes on the heels of the recent approval by the Federal Aviation
Administration of the town’s Airport Layout Plan (ALP), which Stanzione
maintains will allow the town to gain greater control over its airspace by installing
a seasonal control tower, staffed by town-paid air traffic controllers.

For many years, and certainly this political season, the benefits and detriments of the growing East Hampton Airport has resulted in lively discussion. However, according to East Hampton Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione, one issue that should not be up for debate is whether or not the airport is a significant contributor to the town’s overall economy.

Last week, Stanzione put out a press release detailing a report issued by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) in May that details the economic impact the airport has on the region.

According to the report — NYS Economic Impacts of Aviation issued by Joan McDonald, Commissioner of the NYSDOT — concluded that the airport is responsible, indirectly and directly, for the creation of 91 local jobs and brings $12.6 million into the local economy.

The study was meant to detail the economic impacts over 80 airports in the state have on their regions. It concluded the Wainscott-based airport was responsible for the creation of 65 jobs, with another 26 jobs created indirectly by the airport and the businesses its infrastructure supports. The income generated by that employment totals $5,812,800, according to the report.

In total, when taking into account expenditures at the airport and at businesses outside the airport, the report concludes the airport brings in $12,806,100 annually throughout the East Hampton economy.

Stanzione described the report’s conclusion as “important evidence of the economic contribution our airport makes to every taxpayer in our community.”

“There are few, if any, other economic enterprises that can compete with that performance,” he added.

The release comes on the heels of the recent approval by the Federal Aviation Administration of the town’s Airport Layout Plan (ALP), which Stanzione maintains will allow the town to gain greater control over its airspace by installing a seasonal control tower, staffed by town-paid air traffic controllers