Pols asks FAA to reroute helicopters on South Shore

A helicopter lands at East Hampton Airport on

A helicopter lands at East Hampton Airport on Aug. 22, 2012. (Credit: John Roca)

The Federal Aviation Administration should extend its North Fork helicopter route beyond Orient Point and around Montauk and create a new South Shore route that would keep helicopters at least a mile away from land, Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Tim Bishop said Tuesday in a letter to the agency.

The politicians left unclear where the helicopters should cross land to get to East Hampton Airport in Wainscott.

The shortest route would pass near the villages of East Hampton or Sagaponack, where the airport is about 21/2 miles from the Atlantic Ocean.


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Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement Tuesday that "these routes are logistically difficult to establish and require a great deal of research and planning. I will be pushing the FAA to move as quickly as possible."

Schumer and Bishop (D-Southampton) asked the FAA to designate several crossover lanes from the ocean to the airport, to spread out the noise impact.

A federal court recently upheld the FAA's ability to set a helicopter route to limit noise on the ground. Schumer said the decision prompted him and Bishop to write to the FAA.

Eastbound pilots flying the North Shore route between Huntington and Orient Point would have to stay at least a mile off shore, fly over the water to Montauk Point and then go west -- again staying a mile from shore -- until they reach a crossover point to East Hampton Airport.

In the letter, Schumer and Bishop said it is "imperative" that the FAA "establish the South Shore water route" and mandate that helicopters on the North Shore route "fly completely around Orient Point and Shelter Island."

Kathleen Cunningham, chairwoman of the Quiet Skies Coalition -- a group of a dozen civic and community organizations lobbying against noise generated by the town-owned airport -- said she applauded the plan but worried about concentrating helicopter noise in a small area.

Jeff Smith, chairman of the Eastern Region Helicopter Council, said the plan would cause more problems.

"The government's mandated North Shore route last year was supposed to fix the [noise] issue, instead it made it much worse for North Fork communities. Now they want to do the same thing with the South Shore Route, even though thus far this year there has only been one South Shore complaint filed," he said in a statement.

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