Tag Archive | "Peter Boody"

Town Hopes Agreement Leads to Fewer Helicopter Noise Complaints

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By Stephen J. Kotz

A voluntary agreement to regulate helicopter traffic at East Hampton Airport that is hoped will reduce noise complaints was unveiled before the East Hampton Town Board on Tuesday.

“Do we have to talk about helicopters? Do we have to do this?” quipped Supervisor Larry Cantwell, referring to the controversy increased helicopter traffic has caused in recent years, before Peter Boody, the recently appointed assistant to airport manager Jim Brundige, began his presentation.

Mr. Boody was accompanied by Jeff Smith, chairman of the Eastern Region Helicopter Council, an industry group that, he said, counts among its members all of the pilots who typically use the airport.

The agreement, which largely focuses on asking helicopter pilots to maintain minimum altitudes and set routes into and out of the airport, was struck between the council, the airport manager’s office, the control tower, and a pair of town airport subcommittees—one that is made up of airport users and another that is made up of anti-noise activists.

“Most of these routes were in effect last year” when noise complaints declined from about 11,000 to approximately 6,700, Mr. Boody said.

The difference, he said, is that the airport will now monitor flight data from its air traffic control tower. When a complaint is received or a monitor notices that a pilot has not followed the recommended flight path, the information will be forwarded to Mr. Smith of the helicopter council, who will address the concerns with the offending pilot.

“I’ve already had this conversation with every one of my members,” Mr. Smith said. “They have all agreed this is doable.”

“That’s what Jeff and I will be doing all summer long, talking about these problems,” said Mr. Boody after reviewing a few examples on a PowerPoint presentation that showed the paths of helicopters that did not follow the designated routes.

“It’s remarkable how much eagerness there is to comply,” said Mr. Boody. He added, though, that in the summer, as traffic picks up, pilots tend to not follow the routes as precisely as they can. There is also some confusion, he said, among those who don’t understand the new routes.

Mr. Boody said a key element to the new approach is convincing pilots of the need to maintain reasonable altitudes as they approach or leave the airport.

“There have been ups and downs,” Mr. Boody said of efforts to control helicopter traffic. “Generally that the trend is up in terms of altitude is true.”

He conceded, though, that while getting pilots to fly at higher altitudes “affects the intensity of the noise, it doesn’t make it go away.”

Helicopters using a northeasterly route are asked to attain an altitude of at least 2,000 feet before leaving the airport boundary and climb to 3,000 feet by the time they pass over Barcelona Neck and fly over the bay, over the South Ferry channel and on toward the North Fork.

About 30 percent of helicopters use a southerly route that passes over Georgica Pond. They too are asked to climb to 2,000 feet before leaving the airport boundary and over the center of Georgica Pond before turning at the cut at a preferred height of 3,000 feet.

Mr. Smith said that fewer helicopters use the southern route because airplane and jet traffic is already concentrated at that end of the airport, often making the skies too crowded.

Councilwoman Sylvia Overby asked whether air traffic controllers could direct helicopter pilots to follow a set route, but Mr. Boody said since the routes are voluntary, the air traffic controllers would have no authority to direct them.

Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc expressed reservations about the whole idea of sending most flights northward over land that the town, county, and state had spent millions of dollars to protect as open space.

“We have now created a helicopter superhighway to the Hamptons over an area we preserved,” he said. “I find that a troubling contradiction.”

Mr. Van Scoyoc was also perturbed Mr. Smith told him that larger, larger twin-engine helicopters will be sent north over Northwest Harbor and Cedar Point along the eastern edge of Shelter Island before heading out over Orient Point.

“So, the heavies which are 50 percent of the traffic will now be going the length of Northwest Harbor,” he said, adding quietly, “terrific.”


Peter Boody

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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.