East Hampton Town has released figures showing that both helicopter operations and complaints about noisy aircraft using the town’s airport in Wainscott have declined over the past year-and-a-half.
Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, the town board’s liaison to the airport, said at the board’s Aug. 16 work session that the number of helicopter flights decreased 11 percent in 2015 compared with the prior year, and had decreased by 10 percent year to date as of the end of July.
Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said that overall noise complaints decreased by 47 percent in 2015 when compared with 2014 and had decreased by 56 percent in January through June of 2016 when compared with the same time period in 2015.
The complaint data is only complete through the month of June, she cautioned, while the operations data is complete through July, during the height of the airport’s busy season.
East Hampton Town had planned last year to enact several local laws intended to curb helicopter noise, but after the town was sued by aviation interests just before the start of the 2015 summer season, they were only allowed by a State Supreme Court judge to establish a mandatory nighttime curfew from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., and a curfew on noisy aircraft between 8 p.m. and 9 a.m.
Ms. Burke-Gonzalez did report a 16 percent increase in the number of complaints about seaplanes in all of 2015, but a 26 percent decrease in the number of complaints about seaplanes in January through June of this year.
Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said she plans to provide both seasonal and annual reports on airport operations and complaints to the town board going forward, and to make those figures available on the town’s website.
She added that complaints continue to come from the same geographic areas — Mattituck, Cutchogue, Shelter Island, Noyac, Sag Harbor and the Northwest Woods, which are all areas on the final approach to the airport for helicopters traveling the mandatory North Shore helicopter route, along three voluntary final approach routes recommended by the Eastern Region Helicopter Council.
Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said users of the airport meet weekly on Wednesdays to go over issues with operations, including complaints from the public.
East Hampton has recently added online flight tracking software to its website, allowing members of the public to pinpoint offending flights, along with an online complaint form. Citizen activists throughout Long Island have also recently launched a new website this to log noise complaints, www.airnoisereport.com.
Ms. Burke-Gonzalez also reported that the airport’s seasonal control tower was struck by lightning during the thunderstorm system that spawned at least one tornado on the East End on Aug. 10.
The control tower was out of service from the time of the lightning strike through Saturday afternoon, Aug. 13, she said, during which time New York Terminal Radar Approach Control in Westbury handled air traffic into the airport, as it does during the off-season.
Robinson Aviation has submitted a claim to its insurance company to recoup the cost of the destroyed equipment.
Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said no incidents were reported at the airport while the control tower was out of service.