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.”
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