The plan to convert East Hampton Airport from public to private use hit turbulence after a Suffolk County court blocked the move and the Federal Aviation Administration moved forward with part of the plan anyway.
After Judge Paul J. Baisley, Jr. issued a temporary restraining order barring the town from enacting a 33-hour closure of the airport planned as part of the switch, the FAA said that even if the airport doesn’t close, the federal agent will have to stay the course on switching the airport code, its approaches, and other procedures to maintain airspace safety.
“The paramount concern of the FAA is assuring aviation safety,” FAA Regional Administrator Marie Kennington-Gardiner wrote in a letter to the town. “The deactivation of the East Hampton airport is a process that cannot be quickly, and more importantly safely stopped, or undone, by the FAA, as certain steps have already been taken, including changing the airport identifier and creating new special instrument procedures that pilots have been advised to follow.”
The airport code — the three letters the FAA’s air traffic controllers and other staff use as shorthand for the airport — was changed from HTO to JPX. The next court hearing in three lawsuits blocking the airport conversion — which the town says will allow it to enact new flight restrictions to appease noise complaints — is scheduled for May 26. A recently filed fourth lawsuit is also now pending in Central Islip federal court.