The first weekend of overnight curfews at East Hampton Airport saw most aircraft adhering to the new rules. However, a number of violations were issued to pilots of helicopters and planes that missed the windows of operation.
Meanwhile, some residents of surrounding neighborhoods said the curfews seemed to only increase the amount of troublesome and noisy air traffic during the permitted windows for takeoffs and landings.
Town officials and airport staff said they did not see a midair queuing of helicopters in the skies over the South Fork, waiting to land, that they had feared would occur when the airport reopened for business in the morning.
“It was quite orderly,” Supervisor Larry Cantwell said on Monday morning after visiting the airport to observe the typically heavy traffic on the morning after a big weekend. Airport manager Jemille Charlton said that traffic over the weekend was very heavy but that the pace of traffic was smooth and safe.
The curfews did not seem to greatly reduce the number of noise complaints from nearby residents, however. Mr. Charlton noted that complaints registered through the town’s online and voicemail resources over the weekend and afterward appear to be nearly on pace with last summer’s Fourth of July weekend tally of almost 1,000.
The curfews went into effect at 12:01 a.m. last Thursday morning, July 2, with the airport officially opening to some traffic at 7 a.m. that morning and to all traffic at 9 a.m. The first evening curfew went into effect at 8 p.m. Thursday night for loud aircraft like most helicopters and private jets, with the entire airport closing at 11 p.m.
There was also a move by some helicopter companies to use smaller choppers that do not exceed the noise threshold set by the town—which allowed them to come in and out of the airport between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. and after 8 p.m.
Some residents said that they believed the curfews ramped up the noise level during the operating windows.
“I noticed a tremendous increase in frequency,” said Frank Dalene, who lives near the airport and has been a vocal advocate for restrictions on air traffic. “Having the curfews in place, the same amount of traffic is compressed into the day, so that it’s worse than ever now.”