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UPDATED: Airport Reclassification Stirs Up More Questions

Quiet Skies Coalition believes new designation will only make the town board have to take more FAA grant assurances.

The Federal Avitiation Administration reclassified the East Hampton Airport a few months back, and with residents just finding out about the move, questions are only being raised now. 

The Quiet Skies Coalition, the organization formed to combat noise-related issues to and from the town-owned airport, said in a statement on Monday that the airport is no longer classified as a "local" facility, but as a "regional airport," the second highest of four categories of General Aviation Airports The two lower levels are "local" and "basic."

"Although the designation of the East Hampton airport as “Regional” appears in an appendix to the May FAA report, neither airport management nor Town Board airport liaison, Councilman Dominick Stanzione, has made that designation public," they said. 

Kathleen Cunningham, chairwoman of QSC, said the document was discovered on a search of the FAA website. “I am shocked that our local airport is seen by Washington as regional. I note that the document including that determination defines ‘regional airports’, in part, as ‘always in a metropolitan area’ where ‘jet and turboprop flying is prominent’ and includes ‘international flying’. These are hardly appropriate descriptions of our airport or our community," she said.  

“This development clearly demonstrates the FAA’s aggressive expansionist view of the East Hampton Airport. It is also consistent with the recent establishment of the airport control tower and Councilman Stanzione’s current effort to make the tower permanent. One wonders what part this new designation played in Mr. Stanzione’s oft-mentioned ‘dialogue with the FAA’.”

Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson said on Tuesday that he reviewed the documents. "It appeared that the FAA reviewed 3,000 landing sights in that review, which was the first in 40 years. It just reclassified airports, it was just as innocent as that," he said. 

Asked if he felt there were any impacts of the East Hampton Airport's new designation, he said, "I don't think there is anything Machiavellian. I don't see it as part of a strategy, a tactic, or a practice of the Town of East Hampton with regard to its airport — it's just a general review."

“Once again, the Airport opponents are trying to mislead and scare the public with distorted reports about the Airport," said Gerard Boleis, president of the East Hamptin Aviation Assoication. 

“The East Hampton Airport was built in its current configuration in 1936.  There have been no runway additions or expansions since then.  It has remained the same for 77 years," he said. “For decades, pilots have been flying throughout the region since the airport was built.  Upstate New York and New England are favorite regional destinations.” 

He said the town board "should continue to manage the airport on the basis of facts and professional advice from its expert consultants, and not let the airport opponents politicize decision making through misleading press releases."

The FAA website, according to the Quiet Skies Coalition, advises that updates were intended to support FAA regulations including that of “airport operating certificates”, which “serve to ensure safety in air transportation," and imposes airport safety standards with regard to firefighting and rescue equipment, conditions of pavement, markings, lighting, signs, abutting shoulders, and safety areas.

East Hampton has not yet become “certificated” as such as a regional airport, the coalition said. 

“The obvious implication of all of this,” Cunningham said, “is that safety standards for a regional airport will be stiffer and more expensive to comply with than for a local or basic airport. We do not know where East Hampton may stand in the certification process, but such added expense, like the added expense of operating a permanent control tower, will feed Mr. Stanzione’s argument for the need to take FAA funding and 20 more years of restrictive grant assurances.”

The coalition has fought against the town taking grant assurances as members want to see the town impose its own restrictions with regard to the amount of helicopter flights and the times helicopters may land, which could be inhibited by the federal agency if the town accepts grant assurances.

Cunningham also said that she believes the new classification “belies the claims of airport interests that they do not seek expansion of the airport and the ever increasing noise it will inflict on East End residents. By conspiring to seek and create a need for FAA funding, they plan to hamstring the Town for 20 more years with grant assurances that will guarantee endless expansion and block any effective noise mitigation.”

What do you think of the reclassification? Tell us in the comments below.

FactChecker101 February 28, 2013 at 03:02 PM
The airport is not being expanded. Just the opposite is true. After a 10 year process with a dozen public hearings , the town recently approved a new Airport Master Plan which eliminates a runway, shortens and narrows another runway and keeps the third runway the same length as it was built in 1936. The Masterplan has been upheld by the courts and nothing can be done at the airport that is contrary to the plan.
the owl February 28, 2013 at 03:26 PM
Airports across the nation have experienced increased traffic when a permanent control tower is erected. Then follows (slowly and usually behind the scenes) demands for small increases in width or length of runways,funded by FAA of course, then new security upgrades (already requested by EH), so if that is not expansion, what is? Traffic is increasing, particularly over one route, but once it is shared over EH all residents will suffer. there is too much traffic now over one route, it must be shared. people living miles from the airport are suffering, much of the north fork is impacted way west of the airport. Only a handful of operators are making money from this airport's charter operations. it should remain a local recreational use only airport. other than that isw bringing nothing but strife and discord to entire communities and pitting neighbors against neighbors, no good can come of that. Time for EH to own up to its problems, correct them and move on. Expanding that airport is not the way to go.
FactChecker101 February 28, 2013 at 04:57 PM
The East Hampton airport traffic is contracting not expanding. According to the latest town computerized figures, since 2007, helicopter & jet flights have each declined by 16% while flights of other types of aircraft have declined by 42%.
the owl March 01, 2013 at 10:59 PM
Unfortunately, there has been so much disinformation put out by the town, especially the airport, and by ERHC and the EHAA that the truth is hard to uncover and trustworthy town sources cannot,m at this time, be found.
the owl March 01, 2013 at 11:43 PM
Although I've followed airport "events" only since early 2000, I became aware of just how many problems exist there after reading what can only be called disinformation. That the disinformation comes regularly from several different sources. The question is why? Is it about money? Likely, those who are making a lot of it from airport noise and pollution. It cannot be about local pilots who simply want a small recreational airport-- they had one. No need for reopening runways. Why bring peace to only one area....who lives there to bring this about? Deception about the control tower and what it could do. About it being temporary, now they want permanent. Now a deer fencde, then a security upgrade...hellooo=expansion. that is not small recreational flyers requesting this. Most in Eh know who they are....and, as a fact checker, you should. Therefore, look carefully at past and recent pronouncements by individuals/groups who have made deceitful statements in public communications. You have taken the moniker FactChecker, do it!

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