Lawmakers want Helicopters to Round Orient Point

East Hampton Airport
East Hampton Airport

By many accounts, the North Shore over-water helicopter fly route instituted by the FAA two years ago has not been very helpful to folks up on the North Fork, on Shelter Island and in Sag Harbor and Noyac, who have born the brunt of traffic as it deviates from that route on the approach to the East Hampton Airport.

Senator Chuck Schumer and Congressman Tim Bishop announced at a press conference Tuesday that they are urging Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Michael Huerta to both renew the route, which is set to expire August 6, and to expand the FAA regulations to require that helicopters stay over the water until they go past Orient Point and Shelter Island, turning south at Plum Gut on the approach to the airport.

In the summer of 2012, the FAA begin requiring helicopter pilots traveling along Long Island’s northern shore to travel over water between waypoints in Huntington and Orient Point, which has provided some relief to the north shore farther west. Though helicopters must fly a mile offshore at an altitude of at lest 2,500, they are allowed to deviate from that course on their final approach to the airport.

“For the last two years, residents on Long Island have finally had some relief from the onerous helicopter noise that once interrupted dinners, disrupted people enjoying their backyards and had an effect on property values throughout Long Island,” said Mr. Schumer in a press release Tuesday. “However, the over-the-water North Shore Route that provided that long-sought relief is about to expire in early August, and we are urging that the FAA not only extend that rule but also make it permanent, so that thousands of residents are not back to square one when it comes to the deafening drone of helicopters.”

“It is imperative that the FAA continues to require helicopter pilots to utilize a route that travels over water rather than residential communities,” said Congressman Bishop. “I strongly urge Secretary Foxx and Administrator Huerta to take the additional step of requiring these flights to travel around Orient Point and Shelter Island before landing, in order to further mitigate the impact.”

Though noise complaints at East Hampton Airport have been down over the past several years, this Memorial Day weekend proved to provide a constant stream of helicopter traffic over the North Fork en route to East Hampton.

Complaints fell from 11,000 in 2012 to just 6,700 last year, according to new senior airport attendant Peter Boody, who pitched voluntary approach routes to the airport at higher elevations to the East Hampton Town Board in early May.

The Beacon has heard from several North Fork and Sag Harbor residents who said many people just given up on calling in to the East Hampton Airport’s noise complaint hotline.

“The calls from everywhere else are down in number mainly because of
caller fatigue and the fact that not much has improved,” said Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee Chairman Bob Malafronte in an email Tuesday. “As far as compliance with altitude and routes, that is spotty at best, ask the residents of Southampton, especially Noyac, North Sea, Sag Harbor and anywhere near the Long Pond Greenbelt.”

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst pointed out that the FAA’s North Shore route rule, a rare attempt to regulate helicopters, was precedent-setting, and the East End could benefit from its expansion.

“The establishment of the North Shore helicopter route was instrumental because it demonstrated the FAA’s ability to regulate an industry that previously had little oversight,” she said in Mr. Schumer’s statement. “It is crucial that the FAA now build upon this first step and extend the current route past Orient Point so East End residents, on both the North and South Fork, are not inundated with the loud buzz of helicopters throughout the summer.”

The East Hampton Airport’s noise abatement hotline is 1.800.376.4817.

 



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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