Cindy and Steve Tuma, the owners of Sound Aircraft Services, a 19-year-old business at East Hampton Airport, want to build a roughly 20,000-square-foot new hangar to house two private jets owned by two of their clients.
Their lawyer, Eric Brown of Ackerman Partners, approached the East Hampton Town Board on April 7 to ask for some early guidance on how to advance their proposal and what the board might require of Sound if it goes ahead with such an application.
Because it’s the airport, it makes people nervous, Mr. Brown said. He said he and his client were eager to dispel any rumors that Sound Aircraft wants to start offering charters from the hangar or start a commercial airline. The jets in question already use the airport, but the owners, for both reasons of security and physical protection of the multimillion-dollar craft, are not comfortable simply parking them outside on the tarmac, he told the board.
Town Councilman Pete Hammerle said that when the Town Board started work on a new airport master plan, it didn’t hear much about a need for expansion. He said he would research the latest draft and then discuss with his fellow board members their take on whether they would support a hangar expansion.
“We want to build the hangar because we have some current clients that have an aircraft that’s too large for the hangar we have now,” Ms. Tuma said in a phone interview. “There should not be aircraft of that caliber sitting on the runway.” Ms. Tuma said the new hangar would be comparable to the East Hampton Airline hangar on the southwest side of the air field.
Currently, after dropping off their passengers, many jets fly to another airport, where there is hangar space available, before returning to pick up their clients again. Jim Brundige, the airport manager, said that building the hangar would actually reduce air traffic. “I’m in favor of it from that perspective,” he said. “They’re a legitimate business and have a legitimate reason to want a new hangar as their two older hangars are pretty decrepit.”
Part of the problem in applying to build a new hangar is that the airport master plan from 1989 is still in effect, as the lengthy process of creating a new plan is still in the works, under the guidance of former Town Planning Director Lisa Liquori of Fine Arts and Science, LLC, a land use and environmental planning consulting firm in East Hampton. She said she expects the environmental impact statement for the master plan to be finished this spring.
“We’d like to be able to file something that can start to get the town’s review,” Mr. Brown said, “instead of going and spending over $100,000 on lawyers and drawings, I’d rather have them spend the money in response rather than in anticipation.”
Ms. Liquori said in a phone interview that because there had not been a waiting list for new hangars, the board initially wanted to say in the new master plan that new hangars would not be allowed. Then Mr. Brundige told the board that providing hangars for jets based in East Hampton would reduce air traffic, “so the board kept open that window of opportunity for new hangars, as something that should be considered,” Ms. Liquori said.
She added that any new hangar application needs to be weighed for its possible increase in noise, for safety and for how it will expand the airport in any way.
As a fixed base operator, or FBO, Sound Aircraft is a ground operation that services airplanes—fueling, baggage handling and light maintenance. It also owns two small airplanes— one single engine for flight instruction and a small twin engine for local charters.
The Tumas have owned Sound Aircraft since 1990. Ms. Tuma started working at the airport in 1984 while Mr. Tuma started working there in 1978. “We’ve definitely been around for a while,” Ms. Tuma said, “and hopefully we can continue our business successfully.”