The East Hampton Town Board voted on Thursday night to adopt three laws that it says will substantially reduce noise generated by air traffic stemming from East Hampton Airport.
The momentous act, which was applauded by the noise-affected residents of the town, comes just before the summer season begins, when air traffic is at its heaviest, and despite warnings from aviators who say they will file suit to fight the town on the issue.
The three regulations will affect 75 percent of helicopter operations and 73 percent of associated complaints on weekends and holidays during the summer season alone, according to the town.
Starting this summer there will be a curfew banning all flights between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., year round. Aircraft classified as “noisy” will not be permitted to take off or land from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. year round. Furthermore, aircraft classified as “noisy” will be allowed only one takeoff and landing per week between May and September.
The Town Board has defined “noisy” aircraft as any airplane or helicopter that has an Effective Perceived Noise in Decibels (EPNdB) approach level of 91.0 or greater based on noise characteristics published by the Federal Aviation Administration or the European Aviation Safety Agency. Lighter single- and twin-engine general aviation and commercial aircraft, which are rarely the cause of noise complaints, would be excluded from this distinction, but most helicopters and larger turbo propeller airplanes and bigger jets will surpass the 91.0 EPNdB limit.
Town Councilman Fred Overton dissented on the one-trip limit law, saying he did not feel comfortable moving forward with it.
“This restriction will seriously inconvenience airport users and I’m not yet convinced it will produce as many benefits as my colleagues believe,” he said. “I would prefer that the balancing is done in a manner that slightly favors users of the airport.”
The vote came as a relief to residents who have dealt with airport noise for years, including Averill Geus.
“I don’t need studies, examinations, tests or experts to know how much these planes and copters are interfering with my life,” she told the board. ‘I urge immediate adoption of this much needed legislation and I thank you.”
Anticipating the town’s actions in January, the Friends of the East Hampton Airport, which represents several aviation businesses, sued the Federal Aviation Administration challenging the FAA’s ability to waive grant assurances the town says gave officials the ability to enact the access regulations. Now, on the heels of the vote, Loren Riegelhaupt, a spokesman for the Friends, alluded to a legal battle on the horizon. ”
While not surprising, the decision by the Town of East Hampton to implement these severe and illegal restrictions is certainly disappointing,” said Mr. Riegelhaupt. “Rather than working together to find a balanced, reasonable approach, as they promised, the town has passed restrictions that violate the law and result in dramatic loss in revenue for the airport and town. We are now forced to consider legal action to remedy this unfortunate situation.”