Dan Rattiner's Stories

East Hampton to Ticket Helicopter Pilots in Flight

A study released last week in East Hampton confirms what everyone in the Hamptons knows already, which is that pilots, particularly helicopter pilots, are failing to voluntarily comply with an FAA noise-abatement agreement to fly from Manhattan to East Hampton Airport on approved routes over lightly populated areas.

Those complying with the southern route over Georgica Pond total 37 percent. Those complying with the northern route over Jessup’s Neck total only 2 percent. The compliance rate coming in over northern route two at Barcelona Point is somewhere in between. All testing was done within 10 miles of the airport.

This voluntary arrangement was agreed upon five years ago. It could not be legally enforced because there are no laws on the books anywhere about helicopters following prescribed routes.

As one local mayor along the route put it five years ago, “If the pilots can save five minutes by flying in your front door and out your back, they’ll do it.”

Since this is a regional problem, Mayor Arthur Whipenpoof of Hampton Township is seizing the reins.

“Altogether this past summer,” he said, “there were 160 young college students who took jobs as summer traffic policeman. Last week, our Council voted 5 to 1 to go ahead with a plan to increase the number of summer policemen from 160 to 300, with the new recruits being trained to ticket helicopter pilots who do not choose to fly on the designated routes.”

Beginning on November 25, young college students can apply for these 140 new jobs. They will be paid $22 an hour, the same as the traffic police officers, and they will work in the sky—120 will be fliers, 20 will be trained to use cannons.

Training for these jobs will take place every Saturday and Sunday at the East Hampton Airport beginning January 2. Applicants should include documents showing the college they currently attend, should check off that they are not afraid of heights, be willing to be shot out of a cannon, and have a body mass index not to exceed 40, because above that these persons will not fit in the cannon barrels. There’s no offense meant: We love fat people, and they are still eligible to be traffic police.

The 140 people who complete the course and become sky policemen will wear silver body uniforms and helmets, pistols, radios, ticket books, rocket backpacks and, for those working at night, flashlights. All will wear four large rubber suction cups, on their knees and forearms.

When a helicopter is spotted flying the wrong route, a sky policeman will be fired out of a cannon, press a button to ignite their backpack, use their arms for steering and, when reaching the offending helicopter, attach themselves to its outside with the suction cups. They will then write a ticket and place it on the pilot’s windshield, under the windshield wiper. After that, they will release their suction cups, ignite their rocket packs and, carefully avoiding the rotor blades up above, fly down to their station by the cannon to wait for instructions about the next arriving perp. At the end of the summer, medals and arm patches appropriate to their achievements will be pinned to their silver uniforms, which they will be allowed to wear at parades.

“All this shilly shallying is history,” the Mayor said. “Now we take action.”

* * *

The report presented to the East Hampton Town Board about the helicopters not following the routes was made by Young Environmental Sciences and the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse. It states that for every helicopter flight coming into East Hampton, there are on average two complaints about excess noise (the full report may be seen on the East Hampton Town website). It says that the most complaints come from Noyac in Southampton and at every single noise location tested, every helicopter coming in or out exceeded the recommended ground noise maximums allowed by town law at some point during its journey. East Hampton can give tickets to perpetrators who exceed 65 decibels during the day and 50 decibels during the night. But only if they can catch people in the act.

 

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