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Mar 10, 2014 5:27 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

UPDATE: FAA's New Helicopter Rule Clarified

Mar 12, 2014 2:08 PM

UPDATE: Wednesday, 12 p.m.

The confusion over the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) new rule, which creates a category of Stage 3 helicopters, can hopefully be put to rest, thanks to David Schaffer, the legal council for the East Hampton Aviation Association.

According to Mr. Schaffer, the new rule only creates the category of Stage 3 helicopters--it does not explicitly require regulations on the helicopters to be approved by the FAA.

"All the rule does is create this category," Mr. Schaffer said in a phone interview on Tuesday morning. "But when it's read in conjunction with the existing law, you need FAA approval."

Furthermore, the necessity of FAA approval for Stage 3 regulations is applicable to grant-obligated as well as non-grant-obligated airports, said Mr. Schaffer.

"All of this concern about being grant-obligated or not is largely besides the point," he said

To regulate Stage 1 and Stage 2 aircrafts, grant-obligated airports must prove that the restrictions are not "unreasonable, arbitrary, or discriminatory," he said, but ultimately it is up to the FAA to determine if the restrictions fit that bill.

"There isn’t an application process per se," he said, "but as a practical matter if an airport has promised not to discriminate, it can’t discriminate."

Whether an airport is grant-obligated or not is essentially irrelevant to whether or not the restrictions will be successfully implemented, he added.

"If the town imposes restrictions on helicopters and the FAA rules in their favor, the helicopter companies will most likely take them to court. If the FAA doesn't agree with the town, the town will take the FAA to court," said Mr. Schaffer. "Either way, you end up in front of the same court, which generally ultimately makes the decision."



ORIGINAL STORY:

The Federal Aviation Administration enacted a rule earlier this week that creates a new class of helicopter that only can be regulated in grant-obligated airports, such as East Hampton Airport, with FAA approval, according to a release issued by East Hampton Town Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, liaison to the East Hampton Airport Planning Committee—an “additional hurdle” for the airport, she said.

Stage 3 aircraft, according to the new designation, are those that have the “latest available noise reduction technology” in their design, according to the Federal Register’s website. Stage 1 aircraft are the oldest and loudest, while Stage 2 aircraft are about 10 decibels louder than comparably sized Stage 3 aircraft, according to Houston Airport System’s website.

As it stands, according to the town’s press release, East Hampton Airport can place restrictions on Stage 1 and 2 aircraft without the FAA’s approval.

But Quiet Skies Coalition Chairwoman Kathy Cunningham challenged the interpretation of the new rule. Ms. Cunningham said that under Part 161 of the FAA’s regulations, grant-obligated airports can only regulate Stage 1 and Stage 2 aircrafts with FAA approval—and she maintains that Stage 3 aircrafts cannot be regulated at all under this part of the FAA’s code. “You can’t regulate them, through any protocols, through the town while they are grant-obligated,” she said.

Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said she was unable to speak about the regulations as they stand or the new rule’s implication on East Hampton Airport. Likewise, FAA officials were unable to give any specifics on what can and cannot be regulated—although an official noted that by creating a designation for Stage 3 aircraft, some regulation was implied.

However, the FAA’s criteria for grant-obligated airports to regulate Stage 2 and Stage 3 aircrafts seems to be in line with the town’s press release, according to the administration’s website. It outlines “Notice Requirements for Stage 2 Regulations,” which includes guidelines for the notice of proposed restriction, required analysis of proposed restrictions and alternatives, comment by interested parties, among other instructions—but no approval process is noted, nor any suggestion that the FAA must sign off on the town’s regulation of those aircraft.

But for regulating Stage 3 aircrafts, the FAA’s website explicitly outlines “Notice, Review and Approval Requirements”—suggesting that FAA approval is necessary for the town to enact regulations.

The rule takes effect May 5, 2014, and the town’s status as a grant-obligated airport ends on December 31, 2014.

“The elevation of some helicopters to Stage 3 category reinforces the option for the town to allow grant assurances to expire and re-exert its rights as the owner and operator of the airport,” said Ms. Cunningham.

Because the airport is grant-obligated, they cannot deny the landing of any aircraft and must stay open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, which creates constant noise, Ms. Cunningham said.

The Airport Planning Committee has formed two subcommittees to represent those concerned with noise and those involved in the aviation community, to examine the proposed technical noise analysis to consider all factors and make a fair decision as to how to address the problems.

In terms of renewing their status as grant-obligated, the airport is looking into ways to be self-sufficient and generate revenue, thus alleviating the need to “encumber another 20 years of literally anarchy,” said Frank Dalene, co-founder of the Quiet Skies Coalition.

The town is still unsure as to whether or not it will remain grant-obligated in 2015, according to the release.

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Hello! Wasn't it the argument of those who urged the town to accept FAA money for airport improvements that the town's power to control the airport's use would not be affected thereby?

This rule change affirms what everyone knew. You can't dance with the devil without paying the piper.
By highhatsize (3290), East Quogue on Mar 10, 14 9:00 PM
Read it again. All it says is the FAA has created a new class of heli that is quieter. The airport can continue to restrict the other two classes as it always has, it just has to get approval to restrict the quieter ones (all EH would have to do is ask to restrict the third class during certain hours at night). I thought the anti-airport people would be pleased that there is new tech to make helis quieter. Who would have guessed quiet helis is not their goal - more like no helis (or planes) at all. ...more
By localEH (210), East Hampton on Mar 11, 14 11:10 AM
The majority of people who want a quieter airport also recognize the need for, and vitality of, the East Hampton airport.

Why localEH do you have to resort to beating that same old drum about people wanting to close the airport?

It just ain't true, for the most part!

PS -- Yes, this time you did say "some." Thank you.
By PBR (4801), Southampton on Mar 11, 14 11:21 AM
1 member liked this comment
PS -- And the airport does not need FAA funding to survive. I am sure that the new EH Town Board will come up with a plan for making the airport line item in the budget a positive one, just as it was for years.
By PBR (4801), Southampton on Mar 11, 14 11:23 AM
to localEH:

Well, I've read the article again, and it seems that by simply redescribing the word "helicopter", the FAA has taken a whole category of helicopters out of the regulatory control of local authorities (if they take the king's shilling.)

Personally, I think that the term "quiet helicopter" is an oxymoron.

If it can be shown that utilization of the EH Airport by helicopters has risen dramatically since the airport's inception, it would seem to me that the final ...more
By highhatsize (3290), East Quogue on Mar 11, 14 3:06 PM
Highhatsize:
"But what do I know? I'm just a Liberal who thinks that my opinion has greater value regardless of what anyone else says."
FIFY.
By Preliator Lives (227), Obamavillie on Mar 11, 14 3:13 PM
1 member liked this comment
PBR even you admit that some do in fact want to close the airport when you say "for the most part". Dalene and Gruber have said many times in writing that is their goal. They are on the Committee now so they have the ability to steer policy in that direction. What makes you think their goal has changed? I would be satisfied if they both say in writing that they will not seek to defund, underfund, or close the airport, but they never will. HTO does need the FAA funding and the state of the runways ...more
By localEH (210), East Hampton on Mar 11, 14 3:16 PM
The issues and questions you pose for the members of the new committee seem fair, especially the specific question about closing the airport. If that goal is still primary for some people, they should probably put this on the table right up front IMO.

Hopefully the public debate about the remaining issues such as FAA funding and noise will be civil and courteous. Obviously there are many divergent opinions, which the Town Board will resolve.

It is premature to discuss specifics ...more
By PBR (4801), Southampton on Mar 11, 14 3:42 PM
1 member liked this comment
The print version of this article has just been posted. [blue link at top]
By PBR (4801), Southampton on Mar 11, 14 5:49 PM
They need to let the grant expire and close the airport in the evenings. We just had a loud Sikorsy comeover our house around 10 pm then return even louder around 10:30pm. on the way out. In North Sea. Its just ridiculous the noise. CLosing the airport at night would at least return some quiet use and enjoyment to the poeple whp need sleep and get up and work in the AM
By North Sea Citizen (446), North Sea on Mar 12, 14 6:30 AM
If the main issue is noise, is it logically necessary to close the airport to all traffic at night, even to the quietest of aircraft, such as single engine prop planes operated by local pilots whose families may have been using the airport for recreation since the 1950's?

We are all in this together, and everyone's wish list is not going to be fulfilled completely. Thus, broad brush suggestions are probably not the best approach, as they may exclude a good partial solution.

It ...more
By PBR (4801), Southampton on Mar 12, 14 7:34 AM
Many local pilots hate the Sikorskys too. They are a bit like bullies at the airport. Nearly got blown off a taxiway by one last summer. But closing the whole airport at night is not the solution.
By localEH (210), East Hampton on Mar 13, 14 11:43 PM
Agreed.
By PBR (4801), Southampton on Mar 14, 14 2:01 AM
You know that pesky train goes by my house all the time, some times late at night. They really need to close the train tracks because it just ruins my sleep and makes me crank all day.
By Preliator Lives (227), Obamavillie on Mar 12, 14 6:36 AM
There is a new update to the story (in the non-print version -- blue link at the top: see how the story unfolded).

The explanation by Mr. Schaffer, "the legal council [sic] for the East Hampton Aviation Association," seems a bit unbalanced, as to what input the FAA would have on new regulations after 12/31/14 when the FAA grant assurances expire. Isn't the EHAA representing basically one side of this discussion?

"counsel" would fit better for an attorney IMO.
By PBR (4801), Southampton on Mar 12, 14 2:46 PM
1 member liked this comment
Aren't Cunningham and Dalene representing the other side? They were the only ones quoted in the original article but you did not bring this point up then. It is disappointing that they blatantly misrepresented the new reg to promote their agenda to cast the airport in a negative light. This kind of thing just makes finding common ground for a solution so much harder.
By localEH (210), East Hampton on Mar 13, 14 11:36 PM
Their historically separate affiliations have been clear all along. As you and I have discussed, although Dalene did help found QSC years ago, he no longer represents QSC (to my understanding at least). The recent articles have not made this clear, admittedly.

EHAA's partisan role has not been as clearly reported in my opinion, thus the question above. Just making the lines clear hopefully.

Please clarify how you feel that the new regulation has been misrepresented. Given its new-ness, ...more
By PBR (4801), Southampton on Mar 14, 14 2:00 AM
The wealthy fly Sikorski.I prefer STAGE 4-NO HELI!!Summer will be here again wjth all the noise again all over the Hamptons!
By dany (22), Water Mill on Mar 12, 14 7:04 PM
to Preliator Lives:

Quote:

"You know that pesky train goes by my house all the time, some times late at night. They really need to close the train tracks because it just ruins my sleep and makes me crank all day."
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
And has the utilization of those tracks risen by a factor of fifty since they were laid? Do trains built upon a technology developed since WWII create five times as much ...more
By highhatsize (3290), East Quogue on Mar 13, 14 1:30 AM
1 member liked this comment
Having read previous articles relating to this problem, it appears that the town's power to regulate helicopter flights is severely limited by federal government preemption. For instance, the most unobtrusive flight path for helicopters would be over the ocean or over the sound and around Montauk Pt. with a ninety degree turn over Georgica Pond. However, there are FAA regulations prohibiting this. If we cannot regulate helicopter flights (whether we take FAA grants or not), the only enduring ...more
By highhatsize (3290), East Quogue on Mar 14, 14 9:19 AM
HHS, your "federal preemption" broad brush misses some nuances of the Town's ability to regulate the airport after the FAA grant assurances expire at the end of 2014 IMO. Some local regulation may be permitted -- TBD. Debating the details of this is beyond my knowledge base, however.

Your alternative of closing the airport may therefore be misguided, and certain to be perceived, unfortunately, as a rallying cry for some commentators (in spite of your care in prefacing comments with "if" ...more
By PBR (4801), Southampton on Mar 14, 14 10:29 AM
Remnants, rolls, area rugs