East Hampton Airport Expansion Takes Off

East Hampton Airport cartoon by Dan Rattiner
Cartoon by Dan Rattiner

It’s been a long time coming, but finally after nearly five years of legal wrangling, there is closure about the future of the East Hampton Town Airport. East Hampton Airport was officially renamed “East Hampton International Airport” Saturday and by this time next week, the first big Boeing 747 and Airbus A380 jetliners will be coming in, thanks to a deal made between Hampton Township, which owns the airport, and Abu Daba Airlines. The deal led to a rush construction job to triple the length of the runway there.

“This is a win-win for everybody,” said Mayor Clarence Darwod. “This past May, when a judge issued a temporary injunction to halt our efforts to reduce the activity at the airport so as to cut down on the noise, we knew we had to find another solution. The handwriting was on the wall. Everyone here in the Hamptons is excited about what we have decided.”

Abu Daba Doo Air, the mayor said, had been given a route to fly eight times a day between Dubai and New York City back in July, but had not been given any landing slots at either John F. Kennedy or LaGuardia airports. It was sort of a fish out of water situation.

“They are paying us a lot of money,” the mayor said. “All we needed to do was lengthen the runway. Currently it is 4,255 feet. It needed to be 13,000 feet to accommodate those big commercial jets.”

Environmentalists had noticed that there was a lot of activity at the airport at the eastern end of the current runway where it heads toward woods the town owns, extending toward Stephen Hands Path. But the environmentalists had been told by airport officials that they were planning to spruce up the woods to make it into a wildlife sanctuary.

“They lied,” said Douglas Timberwolf, the head of the very successful Hampton Environmental and Soapsuds Program.

“We had to lie,” the mayor said, smiling. “We had no choice. We knew what was coming with this judge.”

He was referring to the judicial decision that came down last week from the judge, officially ordering all of the township’s earlier plans to reduce noise at the airport illegal.

Thousands of construction workers have been working in those woods since August. The runway extension paving was put in, but it was all under the canopy of the trees of the forest so nobody could see. And where this runway would have to cross Daniels Hole Road, temporary plywood barrier walls were built so passing motorists could not see what was going on.

“The trees were all chain sawed down in the woods last weekend and the asphalt road removed from the road and replaced with the strong concrete tarmac,” the mayor said.

At the press conference that Dan’s Papers attended yesterday at the airport terminal, which will be increased in size tenfold as an exact copy of the TWA Terminal at JFK (currently completely surrounded by other buildings,) the mayor unveiled a new photograph of Daniels Hole Road being fitted with huge gates. When completed and decorated with lights and bells, the gates will come down sixteen times a day to temporarily halt vehicular traffic so these planes can take off or land.

They are similar to the gates that do that at railroad crossings, but bigger.

“And they don’t stay down as long as railroad crossing gates,” the mayor said. “At railroad crossings, the trains going by are sometimes 16 cars long. Here, it’s just one airplane.”

So Daniels Hole Road remains, although paved with airport grade concrete tarmac where it crosses the runway. The mayor assured everyone that The Clubhouse nightspot and tennis court complex driveway along with the Animal Rescue Fund dog and cat adoption center driveway would remain accessible north of the new runway, with Industrial Road still easily accessible on the south side.

“I think there are lots of people out here in the Hamptons who will take these planes to Dubai,” the mayor continued. “Dubai is an exciting destination, especially for long weekends.”

For a long time, the mayor said, he’d been hoping to be able to announce at the press conference a deal which, figured out in compliance with the judge’s ruling, would completely halt all the helicopter comings and goings at the airport.

It is a fact that, for the last 10 years, the comings and goings of the helicopters has become fashionable as a way to get out to the Hamptons, with the unbearable blade-slap noise the choppers make so distressing to local residents considered as just a sort of thundering excitement for the passengers’ entrance and exits to our community. Takeoffs and landings increased from 300 a year ten years ago to nearly 12,000 last year.

“But we are still working on this,” the mayor said. “We might be able to make this happen by spring. As you know, the current noise limits established by the FAA were passed long before helicopters and helicopter noise came to be such a big problem.”

The plan is, he said, to have C-47 cargo planes, even larger than the Boeings and Airbuses, configured to permit as many as 50 helicopters loaded into their cargo bays for each trip from New York City out to the Hamptons. There’d be no helicopters at all in the Hamptons. They’d be all packed into the cargo planes for the trip out and back.

A member of the press asked where these helicopters could be loaded in New York City into cargo planes for the trip out and the mayor said that was sort of the stumbling block. But it was hoped that this problem would be solved before spring.

“Something is being done with ladders,” he said. “You’ll see. “We’ll have it all worked out.”

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