Court Order Delays East Hampton Airport Closure; FAA Recommends Changing Airport Identifier Anyway

The plan to close the East Hampton Airport and reopen with new restrictions in place tomorrow at 9 a.m. has been delayed until at least May 26, after a Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice issued temporary restraining orders blocking the closure.

The restraining orders were issued by Justice Paul Baisley May 16 in response to three lawsuits by Blade Air Mobility, East End Hangars and the Coalition to Keep East Hampton Airport Open, with a hearing on whether to grant a preliminary injunction to prevent the closure scheduled for May 26.

In addition to preventing the closure, the temporary restraining order prohibits the town from “continuing to take any steps to effectuate the closure of the airport, the conversion of the airport to a “private use” facility, or operation of the airport on a “prior permission required” basis.”

The town had planned to implement restrictions at the new airport including limiting aircraft to one takeoff and one landing per day and setting airport hours of operation at 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends, as well as limiting noisy aircraft.

After several judges recused themselves from hearing the case, the order was issued just one day before the the airport, known by the airport identifier “HTO” was slated to close and then reopen with a new identifier, “JPX.” East Hampton Town had chosen this date for reopening the airport in response to a request from the Federal Aviation Administration that the closing and reopening be timed to coincide with the updating of FAA charts.

The FAA’s Regional Administrator, Marie Kennington-Gardiner, said in a May 17 letter that, because of processes already underway in the FAA’s conversion of the airport, the HTO identifier will cease to exist today.

“This means that pilots cannot use HTO as an origin or destination on a flight plan or file a flight plan to HTO,” she wrote. “This presents aviation safety risks in the congested New York airspace.”

“The airspace designated to HTO will not be on the new aeronautical charts scheduled for publication on May 19, 2022,” she added. “The current Instrument Approach Procedures will decommission on May 18, 2022. The final deadline that would have permitted pulling this back was missed.”

The town has also already contracted with an outside company to develop special instrument flight procedures for the new airport.

Ms. Kennington-Gardener said it would be prudent for the town to now operate the airport under the JPX identifier, which is on the new charts.

“As a result of the actions already taken and processes in place, the FAA has significant concern that the court and the parties have introduced a major safety issue into this complex airspace system,” she said. “FAA is working on the processes to enable the town to operate JPX and implement the substance of the court’s order while maintaining safety in the National Airspace.”

“The town will continue to consider all available legal options, remedies and alternatives regarding the airport, and will continue to keep the public informed,” said East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc in a May 18 statement informing the public of the FAA letter.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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