East Hampton Airport Manager Jim Brundige said this week that a federal reclassification of the airport from “local” to “regional” is not significant in any way and won’t have an impact on airport operations.
Mr. Brundige, who spoke at a Town Board work session on Tuesday, responded to airport noise opponents, who recently expressed concern that the new categorization could lead to an expansion at the airport. On February 25, Quiet Skies Coalition Chairwoman Kathleen Cunningham issued a statement saying that the shift in classification, documented in an exhaustive 2012 Federal Aviation Administration report listing the classifications of all airports in the country, “clearly demonstrates the FAA’s aggressive expansionist view of the East Hampton Airport.”
“I am shocked that our local airport is seen by Washington as regional,” Ms. Cunningham said in the statement. “I note that the document including that determination defines ‘regional airports,’ in part, as ‘always in a metropolitan area’ where ‘jet and turboprop flying is prominent’ and includes ‘international flying.’ These are hardly appropriate descriptions of our airport or our community.”
Ms. Cunningham also expressed concern that the new categorization would mean added expenses in certifying safety at the airport.
“The obvious implication of all of this is that safety standards for a regional airport will be stiffer and more expensive to comply with than for a local or basic airport,” Ms. Cunningham said in the statement. “We do not know where East Hampton may stand in the certification process, but such added expense, like the added expense of operating a permanent control tower, will feed [Councilman Dominick] Stanzione’s argument for the need to take FAA funding and 20 more years of restrictive grant assurances.”
Supervisor Bill Wilkinson asked Mr. Brundige at the work session if the reclassification had any impact on the airport operations.
“Absolutely not,” Mr. Brundige replied, adding that it had “no legal, regulatory, or funding or other significance,” citing a statement from Peter Kirsch, the town’s aviation attorney. Mr. Brundige said the FAA embarked on the study, titled “General Aviation Airports: A National Asset,” after “lobbying pressure from Congress to try to determine how they distribute Airport Improvement Plan funds”—money available to airports to improve infrastructure.
Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc pointed out that he had also read Mr. Kirsch’s comments on the matter, and pointed out that Mr. Kirsch made the point that five to 10 years from now anything could happen.
“I see that as lawyer speak,” said Mr. Brundige. “In other words, he’s covering himself in case something happens.”
Mr. Stanzione, who has overseen airport issues on behalf of the Town Board, denounced the claims of expansion last week shortly after the press release was issued by the Quiet Skies Coalition.
“It’s nonsense,” he said. “No change is proposed. Nothing has changed at the airport. The airport is not expanding. In fact, the airport is becoming smaller, as per the approved master plan, which calls for the closing of one runway, the shortening of another.”