Helicopters would account for about half of all aircraft that would be affected by proposed new noise restrictions at the East Hampton Airport—and, in fact, would be all but excluded from the airport, especially during the key summer months.
That’s exactly the goal of four new resolutions that will be put before residents at a public hearing on Thursday at LTV Studios in Wainscott. Designed to address noise complaints from airport operations, especially in the summer, the proposals could be approved by the Town Board as early as Thursday night, after the hearing. The board also might opt to revisit the resolutions and revise them, as they have once already.
Regardless, new restrictions at the airport are likely, and some are wondering exactly what effects they will have.
According to the current resolutions, in addition to most helicopters, several types of aircraft also would be labeled “noisy” and fall under stricter conditions. The label would be applied using a sound measuring method known as Effective Perceived Noise in Decibels (EPNdB), which measures not just the decibel level of an aircraft taking off or landing, but also the way the noise is perceived on the ground—for instance, the percussive nature of helicopter rotors would mean a higher EPNdB rating.
The EPNdB rating, however, is typically used only to rate larger aircraft like jets and turbine-driven helicopters. An earlier version of the regulations included an additional noise threshold, using a different measuring system applying lighter, piston-driven aircraft, but it was dropped in the most recent draft to make the law less vulnerable to legal challenges, and to simplify the rating process.
As a result, most lighter single-engine aircraft, regardless of their noise profile, will be exempt from classification under the proposal, because the Federal Aviation Administration does not require them to have an EPNdB rating.
Under the town’s proposals, a jet or helicopter with a rating of 91.0 or higher, according to the FAA—the sound equivalent of a subway train, motorcycle or lawnmower—would be considered “noisy.” Those aircraft would be permitted only two operations per week, one takeoff and one landing, at the East Hampton Airport between May and October. That would include aircraft based at the airport and those that frequently fly in and out.
In addition to most commercial helicopters, the new restrictions would affect some luxury passenger jets most commonly seen at the airport, including the Cessna Citation 560XL, the Dassault Falcon 7X, the Dassault Falcon 900, the Hawker 4000 and the Cessna Citation Sovereign 680. These aircraft would be considered “noisy” by the town’s new definition and would be allowed to fly into and out of the airport only once per week between May and October.
East Hampton Airport Director Jemille Charlton said that most of these are in the fleet of companies like Net Jets and Wheels Up, private aviation corporations that lease luxury jets.
Because of design innovations, some of the newer, larger jets that use the airport would not be considered “noisy.” Examples would include the Gulfstream G-550 and T-650.
Although all helicopters would be banned from flying into the airport on summer weekends, some smaller, piston-driven helicopters, like the Robinson R22 and R66, fall below the noise decibel level and would be permitted more than one trip into and out of the airport per week.
Larger helicopters, such as the Sikorsky models used by flight services like Blade, would be banned on weekends, from noon Thursday to noon Monday, and would be limited to two operations per week, May to October.
Most of the aircraft stationed at the East Hampton Airport are single-engine turbo props, which would not be affected by the proposed restrictions. There is only a handful of helicopters, larger multi-engines and jets currently stationed there.