East Hampton: Helicopter Traffic Increased “Significantly” After Town Rules Were Shot Down

East Hampton Town was told by the courts last year to stop enforcing its helicopter restrictions.

The number of aircraft operations at the East Hampton Airport increased noticeably in 2017, including a significant increase in the number of helicopter operations from the previous year, according to data reported to East Hampton Town by Vector Airport Systems.

According to the town, there was a 7 percent increase in total operations between 2016 and 2017. While some categories of aircraft, including turboprops and jets, saw a decrease between 2016 and 2017, there was a 29 percent increase in helicopter operations in just one year.

The town issued a statement Aug. 9 saying the “overall increase is the direct consequence of the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit late last year to enjoin three town laws designed to relieve East End residents from excessive aircraft noise.”

In April 2015, the Town enacted three local laws: a mandatory nighttime curfew, from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., an extended curfew on noisy aircraft from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. and a limit on operations by noisy aircraft of one trip per week during the summer season.

In pursuing the three local laws, the town relied on written statements made by representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration to former U.S. Congressman Tim Bishop, concluding that once certain Grant Assurances expired in 2014, the town would no longer be required to engage in the lengthy FAA bureaucratic review and approval process under the Federal Airport Noise and Capacity Act (ANCA) but could instead, as the owner of the airport, adopt reasonable noise restrictions of their own.

Grant Assurances are conditions set by the federal government that the town not restrict traffic at the airport for a certain amount of time as a result of FAA monetary grants the airport had received in prior years.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals shot down the regulations in the fall of 2016, after which the town petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, to no avail.

The town is now working on a lengthy Part 161 Study under the Airport Noise and Capacity Act, which, when complete, may allow the town to set very specific regulations to control noisy aircraft.

“You can see the immediate impact of the court’s decision,” said East Hampton Town Councilman Jeff Bragman. “When two curfews were in effect between July 2015 and November 2016, overall traffic stayed level and helicopter traffic actually decreased. Now that the court has usurped the town’s ability to exercise local control, operations are on the rise, and helicopter traffic has returned with a vengeance.”

“What is really frustrating is that we followed the process dictated by FAA and the federal District Court has found that our two curfews were reasonable, but we still cannot escape the federal bureaucracy,” added Councilwoman Sylvia Overby.

“Ever-increasing air traffic continues to degrade the quality of life in East Hampton and across the East End, and must be addressed to ensure residents’ quiet enjoyment of their homes and surroundings,” added East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc.

East End Beacon

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