The East Hampton Town Board should ban some helicopters completely and limit hours of operation at the town-owned airport for certain other types of aircraft in a bid to reduce noise complaints, a subcommittee concluded on Tuesday.
At its work session, the Town Board heard the final recommendations of the East Hampton Airport’s Noise Subcommittee on the best ways to combat airport noise, which has prompted complaints from residents for years.
David Gruber, the chair of the subcommittee, proposed that the Town Board enact curfews to cut down on traffic and noise and ban only what the committee calls the “noisiest” types of aircraft.
“The professional noise analysis identified three acute problems: first, operations in the evening, night and early morning; second, high-frequency options, particularly on summer weekends and holidays, by the noisiest types that turn out to be chiefly commercial aircraft, not recreational aircraft; and, third, helicopter operations,” Mr. Gruber said.
The recommendations suggest that the town rate aircraft on their noise levels and place them in three categories: “noisiest,” “noisy” and “quiet.” Based on those ratings, the subcommittee recommended that the town ban the noisiest types of aircraft from taking off or landing at the airport between 5 p.m. and 9 a.m. every day, and ban noisy types from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m. every day.
The subcommittee also suggested limiting the noisiest aircraft to no more than two operations—one arrival and one departure—any day during the week. It called for an outright ban on helicopters that are classified as “noisiest.”
Under the committee’s recommendations, helicopters that are deemed “noisy” would not be permitted to fly between noon each Thursday and noon the following Monday, or on federal holidays, or on one day preceding and following holidays. They would also not be allowed to operate more than twice during any week.
During the summer season, touch-and-go operations for pilot training would not be allowed from noon each Thursday until noon the following Monday, and they would be banned from taking place on federal holidays, and the day before and after those days.
The idea is to curb commercial air traffic and the noise that stems from it, according to the Quiet Skies Coalition, which has members on the Noise Subcommittee.
“Local aviators have never been the problem,” said Pat Trunzo, a former town councilman and Quiet Skies Coalition and subcommittee member. “Noise complaint data coupled with the proposed noise emissions categorization support that.”
Mr. Gruber said the recommendations will “achieve immediate, substantial noise relief for residents, allow sufficient traffic to maintain a financially self-sustaining airport, provide an incentive for airport users with noisiest types of aircraft to transition to quiet types in order to avoid restrictions, and to affect, only very lightly, recreational aviation.”
Loren Riegelhaupt, a spokesman for the Friends of the East Hampton Airport, said the group is convinced the subcommittee is aiming to close the airport entirely rather than just reducing its traffic.
“Enacting these plans will severely impact local businesses and the local economy, and create a huge gap in the town budget that taxpayers will ultimately have to make up for with higher property taxes,” he said. “Rather than trying to close the airport, we should be working together to find commonsense solutions that protect our community’s access to aviation and the economic benefits that the airport provides.”
Supervisor Larry Cantwell said on Tuesday afternoon that the Town Board will consider the subcommittee’s recommendation as it works to set restrictions this spring. “The board is still gathering input from different interested parties, and the Phase III noise analysis will be presented on February 3,” he said. “At that point, the board will be in a position to make the town’s proposal. Certainly, we appreciate input from the Noise Subcommittee. It’s a part of the record being established for the board to propose a townwide proposal.”