Officials: Less noise being made at airport

Sen. Charles Schumer speaks about the new federal regulations to curb noise created by low-flying helicopters across Long Island. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (June 3, 2012)

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Noise from aircraft at East Hampton's town-owned airport in Wainscott has been significantly reduced this year compared with the first six months of 2011, airport officials say.

Airport manager Jim Brundige said that efforts to get helicopters to fly higher have resulted in average altitudes of 2,900 feet, compared with 2,300 feet for the same period last year.

Another reason is that fewer aircraft are arriving and departing; midsummer takeoffs and landings are down by 34 percent compared with the same period in 2011, and by slightly more than that compared with the first half of 2010.

"I wish I knew why," Brundige said. He cautioned that no one can predict the kind of air traffic that will be seen in East Hampton in summer, when the airport does the bulk of its annual business.

Brundige said the noise reduction was "significant," and "a direct result of efforts between the airport and helicopter companies" who negotiated higher altitude approaches in anticipation of the town's opening of a summer-only control tower. That seasonally operated tower went into operation a few weeks ago.

Kathy Cunningham, a member of East Hampton's Quiet Skies Coalition, lives about 1.5 miles north of the airport. "I can't honestly say I noticed a change. If anything, there may be fewer flights," she said.

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Town officials estimate that 90 percent of the pilots who made the 30,000 flights to the airport last year voluntarily followed town-recommended noise abatement procedures.

Cunningham said the town still has no mandatory noise abatement plan for the airport, and that efforts by her group to force the town to adopt one have failed. "We get lip service," Cunningham said.

Complaints about aircraft noise have roiled the town for years, and two separate groups -- one seeking to limit aircraft operations or shut down the airport, the other saying the airport is vital to the economy of East Hampton and should be improved -- are both active.

Airport supporters believe quick access to the Hamptons from New York City is vital for the health of the multimillion-dollar summer real estate rental market and the vitality of the mostly seasonal businesses that serve summer residents.

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