Dan Rattiner's Stories

Airport Chaos: Court Won’t Enforce New East Hampton Airport Rules

East Hampton Airport is back to having big and small airplanes and helicopters landing here 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A ruling by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals declares that three ordinances that the town put into place a year ago in order to rein in noise and activity at the airport are illegal. The ordinance that included a curfew on all noisy high-decibel aircraft between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. is no more. The ordinance that restricted noisy aircraft to just one trip a week is no more. The ordinance that requires a curfew on all aircraft traffic between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. is no more.

Remaining in place is a phone number to call to file a noise complaint against these thundering arrivals and departures. It is 631-376-4817. Also in place are the fines to be inflicted upon any aircraft company that breaks rules other than the ones just thrown out.

The throwing out of the noise and curfew ordinances revolves upon the appeals court decision that East Hampton Town, which owns the airport, must abide by federal rules that give the FAA decision-making authority in certain matters. This FAA authority, at the order of Congress, was established in 1990. The court says that East Hampton must abide by these rules, which are as tangled and complicated as one can imagine. According to the court, it is to be up to the FAA, apparently, as to what the citizens of East Hampton are to put up with in the noise department. In other words, the fox is in the henhouse. Too bad.

According to East Hampton Airport manager Avery Brudange, landing fees for small private planes at the airport are between $20 and $100 depending upon weight. Helicopters, which are usually very noisy, get charged about $250, larger propeller planes and small jet planes have to pay around $350 to $400 a landing and big booming private jets for the rich and famous get to pay between $500 and $700. The airport is the site of about 30,000 landings and takeoffs a year, with half of those coming in and out during June, July and August. According to Brundage, the FAA does not decide on what the town charges for landing fees. Different airport owners charge different amounts. It’s what the traffic will bear, one supposes.

If we cannot stop planes from coming and going and disturbing the peace, without the FAA approval, which is as likely to happen as a snowball in hell, then I think the answer is to change what we charge aircraft for landing here. I suggest surge pricing.

It’s something new. The NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission doesn’t regulate Uber for doing it. Taxis, cars, planes, what’s the difference? The FAA also doesn’t regulate air charter fees.

I suggest we keep the landing fees just as they are. Except when surging is necessary, such as, for example, in June, July and August, and also year around at night. The small planes are not the problem, of course. But the jabbering choppers and the thundering behemoths are. Particularly at night and during the summer. Who can sleep through this? Nobody.

I suggest no increases on small planes, 2-times increases on helicopters and 10-times increases on the behemoths during the surge periods.

The money could be used to pay the half-million dollars to the outside lawyers we hired to shepherd through the ordinances that just got struck down. And maybe the big jets could voluntarily do 50 times. This is pocket change. Save the Airport.

I do not recommend shutting the airport. It is one of the major economic engines for our community. But we must find a way to lower the noise of the engine.

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