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East Hampton Airport to Go ‘Private’

Thu, 01/06/2022 - 12:14

Operators would need prior permission to use it

Possible restrictions could include a ban on commercial aircraft or on certain types of aircraft, or limits on the frequency of flights, all of which is yet to be determined.
Durell Godfrey

East Hampton Airport will transition to private use under a “prior-permission-required” model, Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc announced during his state of the town address on Tuesday.

Under Federal Aviation Administration guidelines, this would require aircraft operators to obtain permission in advance to “have full operational use of a runway, taxiway, apron, or airport facility/service.”

After Tuesday’s meeting, the supervisor said that possible restrictions could include a ban on commercial aircraft or on certain types of aircraft, or limits on the frequency of flights, all of which is yet to be determined. “The important point is that we will be looking to specifically target these measures to improve residents’ quality of life,” he said.

He emphasized that any regulations implemented will be on a trial basis, “so we can fine-tune and make adjustments as necessary.” The board is cognizant of the potential impact of the transition to private use at East Hampton Airport on the privately-owned Montauk Airport, he said. “We continue to have concerns and want to target restrictions in a way that doesn’t simply displace the problems to somewhere else in town.” If an agreement could be struck with the owners of Montauk Airport, “that’s something that we would take a look at,” he said.

Federal Aviation Administration grant assurances at East Hampton Airport expired in September, returning control of the airport to the town.

The town can allow the airport to continue as is; close it temporarily and reopen with restrictions enacted such as hours of operation or the quantity and type of aircraft allowed, or close it entirely and repurpose its 600 acres.

Mr. Van Scoyoc, who was elected to a third term in November, said that the board’s goal “is to gain meaningful relief for the ever-growing multitude of people whose quality of life is negatively affected by aircraft noise.”

The board has been meeting with F.A.A. officials “to better understand the mechanics of this transition,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said in his report. The prior-permission-required model “will give the town the most flexibility in crafting restrictions that balance the needs of the entire community.” The transition is expected to begin this winter, he said, so that restrictions will be in place by the summer, when operations historically surge. The announcement followed a series of public workshops to solicit and gauge opinion as to the airport’s future, as well as the engagement of consultants to assess the pros and cons of the airport that many residents complain has far outgrown its surroundings, with a surge in commercial operations, particularly in helicopter and jet traffic, in recent years.

With the knowledge gained from the workshops and consultants’ conclusions, “we feel the best approach is to transition to a private use airport, which will allow us to put in place restrictions that are specifically targeted to improve residents’ quality of life and improve the environment by reducing emissions,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said.

“We’re going to try and tie whatever measures we take to specific issues that we have at the airport,” such as residents’ complaints, he said.

Erin King Sweeney, executive director of the East Hampton Community Alliance, a pilot group that advocates to keep the airport open, said yesterday that the alliance “remains committed to working with the town and the aviation community to develop workable solutions to keeping open HTO,” the airport’s aviation designation. “We remain opposed to any airport closure, even a so-called ‘temporary closure,’ due to the many risks inherent in such a move.”

The town board was to meet in executive session yesterday to receive advice of counsel on airport matters, and a meeting with F.A.A. officials is to happen today. 

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