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Sep 19, 2017 6:22 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Hampton Airport Complaints Spike Again, But With Uncertain Implications

Sep 19, 2017 6:31 PM

While the number of aircraft that landed or took off from East Hampton Airport climbed only incrementally in the first part of 2017 compared to the previous year, the number of complaints lodged about aircraft noise through two online outlets skyrocketed and already exceeds the level of complaints from all of 2016.

As of July 31, the last date the complaint data has been compiled for, there had been 30,821 complaints lodged about aircraft believed to be approaching or departing East Hampton Airport. In all of 2016, there were 30,811 complaints logged, which had already represented a 25-percent jump from 2015 levels.

Consultants to the town last year attributed the leap in numbers of complaints to the ease of use of a new privately-operated website, AirNoiseReport.com, that allows users to file complaints about individual aircraft by simply touching the image of a plane on a digital map showing the location of known flights in the region.

But the ease of use of the site, which accounted for more than half of 2016’s complaints and 80 percent of the complaints filed in 2017 already, also makes it easy for a single individual to file multiple complaints about the same aircraft.

Noise consultant Mary Ellen Eagan said that while her company, HMMH, now tallies complaints on both AirNoiseReport.com and the town’s official complaint site, PlaneNoise.com, there is no way to tell if any, or all, of the complaints on the town site are being duplicated by the same person on AirNoiseReport and effectively counted twice.

There have been 6,200 complaints lodged on PlaneNoise thus far this year and 24,600 on AirNoiseReport.

The town’s complaint site asks users to enter the physical address where they experienced the aircraft flying over, and therefore allows the consultants to at least estimate how many individual residents were being affected by aircraft noise.

While supporters of restrictions on aircraft traffic at the airport have pointed to the climbing complaints as evidence that consternation over the airport is broad-based, aviation groups have pointed to evidence of “super-complainers” who account for an outsized portion of the complaints and skew the message the numbers send. One piece of evidence: During the summer of 2015, when curfews were in place at East Hampton Airport and before the advent of AirNoiseReport, there were 19,100 complaints filed through the town’s site. The complaints came from 475 individual complainants, but some 60 percent of the total were lodged by just 15 individuals.

Critics say that the AirNoiseReport system is further skewing the data, and increasingly so the more it is used.

“Approximately 41 percent of those complaints cannot be verified to have even come from anyone living on the East End or even in the State of NY and cannot be tracked to determine how many people actually made those complaints,” Kathryn Slye, a member of the East Hampton Aviation Association, a pilots group, said in an email on Tuesday.

Ms. Slye spotlighted the climbing number of complaints in the last two years, despite the fact that the total number of flights at the airport has remained essentially flat since 2014.

At a public discussion on Tuesday, one resident of the neighborhoods near the airport, which he described as “epicenter” for airplane noise, asked the town to develop a mobile phone app for people to log complaints with, which he said would then provide more accurate data about how many people are being affected because it would show who made each complaint.

“Why do we have three different ways to log a complaint?” said Peter Montalbano, who said he logs about 300 complaints a year. “Is there a way we can get an application and all use the same one? All you have to do is have your location services on and then you’ll know exactly how many people are being affected. I have a feeling you’d get a lot more unique users.”

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Two comments:

If you look at the hurricane ravaged areas over the past month, the only support coming to help them comes from their local airports...close our airport and we'll be completely screwed.

The folks complaining have the most to gain..higher property values.

The airport is here to stay.
By MontaukSteve (1), Montauk on Sep 20, 17 11:30 AM
2 members liked this comment
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