We live on Baycrest Avenue, which serves as the landing beacon for southerly approach Runway 6, one of Gabreski Airport’s instrument-guided runways.
Our beacon has worked overtime this year: Private corporate jet air traffic is up by 67 percent through September of this year and is steadily increasing. This past summer has seen upward of 30 flights per day landing from the south on Runway 6. This is no accident, for the county and Joshua Smith, Gabreski’s economic development officer, have worked long and hard to increase this traffic, even building several new hangers to accommodate the quickly growing private charter jet fleet.
We recently attended a Zoom meeting with airport officials to voice our complaints. Of the several hollow excuses offered by the county to convince us to shut up and live with our predicament was the claim that the Baycrest Avenue landing route was only used when winds required it. This long and noisy past summer demonstrated to us this is not true.
The county also touted its Fly Neighborly partnership program with Sheltair Aviation, the primary private jet carrier catering to our east-of-the-canal neighbors. Under that program, Sheltair’s pilots agreed to: depart to and arrive from the north; use northerly approach Runway 24 for landings (requiring planes to remain one mile offshore until reaching the Shinnecock Inlet); obey a night curfew between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.; and not to fly below 2,500 feet over certain noise-sensitive areas (our neighborhood is within that area).
We left disappointed yet naively hoping that we might see some improvement in compliance. Within days of our meeting, a flight came in after the curfew. The following morning began with a negligible southerly tailwind that carried multiple jets across our rooftop. We visited the airport and observed a limp windsock.
There is much the county can do to alleviate the invasion. We are blessed to have an airport surrounded on three sides by undeveloped and undevelopable land facilitating takeoffs and landings away from residential neighborhoods. Yet the county leaves the east-west runway unequipped for instrument landings.
There should be a win-win here. Economic development is good for the county and good for those of us living south of the airport. We salute Sheltair’s business model. We wish that company continued success.
The county should upgrade its airport to allow instrument landings on all of its large-jet-capable runways. Sheltair Aviation should become the good neighbor it claims to be and land from the south only when winds require it.
If the county’s elected officials continue to promote a private jet fleet at Gabreski without upgrading the infrastructure needed to support that endeavor, then we should work to elect more intelligent and creative representatives.
Michael H. and Patricia A. Donnelly
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