Peter Boody of North Haven, who has enjoyed a long career as a newspaper editor on the East End, but whose first love has always been aviation, talks about his new job as an assistant to Jim Brundige, the manager of the East Hampton Airport.
By Stephen J. Kotz
So you have given up the life of a journalist to become the East Hampton Airport senior attendant. What do your new duties entail?
It sounds a little bit like a guy in the white suit restraining patients in an asylum, but the attendant is responsible for answering the Unicom frequency [an information service for pilots], accepting fuel deliveries, and many other things. What impresses me is how much paperwork and recordkeeping there is. Basically, my job will be to help Jim Brundige who has been working on his own since the fall.
The town has been hiring graduates of Dowling College who have aviation management degrees, but often they leave after a year or so. I think maybe the town board thought it might be good to hire a guy who is a local, is experienced, and who is not going to be going away.
Besides your love of flying, what special qualifications do you bring to the job?
I have a long history at the airport. I worked there when I was in high school and I’ve operated there. Being a reporter and editor out here for 30 years, I covered the airport as a neutral observer, not as a fan or pilot, and I’m aware of a lot of the issues that have been part of the airport’s history. They are still important issues, with noise being the biggest one. I think I understand the pressure town board members are working under.
Noise is clearly the top issue. What can be done to see that the complaints of people who are fed up listening to helicopters and planes will be addressed?
There is lots of information coming in on software that tracks airplanes and helicopters. We can follow the flight path and the altitude. I’ll be doing lots of work tracking down noise complaints. I’ll also be observing how well helicopters are going to be following the voluntary flight paths. If not, we’ll go to after those operators and say you have to comply or otherwise we’ll have a town that wants to shut its airport. We don’t have a lot of power right now. That is one of the issues the town board is pondering: If we don’t take FAA grants will we have more authority to restrict certain operators. It’s a very complex legal issue.
What sparked your interest in flying?
I was a summer kid in Bridgehampton in 1965 and I was out on the golf course of the Bridgehampton Club when someone landed a glider on the eighth fairway. The canopy opened and out popped this kid who was no older than me. His name was Bill Stegman and I would later go on to work with him at Montauk Caribbean Airlines.
I ran home and told my dad I really wanted to take flying lessons. My dad said he would match every dollar I saved. My grandfather was one of the first guys to get his wings in the navy, so I had heard him talk about flying. I became obsessed with it. I eventually took lessons at Teterboro Airport near our home in New Jersey. When I was 16, on July 4, 1967, I did my first solo. I only had eight hours [of flight time.] But all you had to do was take off… and come and land. Looking back, I barely knew how to do that, but I did know enough to come back and not wreck the plane.
Later, I went to work for Montauk Caribbean, which had regularly scheduled flights to New York. I was what they called a line boy. I fueled airplanes, drove the fuel truck, did all sorts of things from dispatching to loading the planes and taking the money from the passengers.
Will you miss journalism?
I’ve been looking for a way to retire gracefully from the news business, but I think I will miss journalism very much. I will continue to try to do a thing I’ve been doing every week, which is writing an interview for The Shelter Island Reporter, which have been doing for the past year.
I think that what has frustrated me is the dumbing down of standards. I think stories are a lot less crisp, clear and precise than they used to be, not just where I’ve worked but everywhere. There is a looseness in writing because there has been a change in standards. Part of that comes from the web, part of it is how we are educating people, and part of it is from tendencies in the culture.