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Restrictions extended on overwater flight path of helicopters going to East End

A helicopter takes off from East Hampton Airport

A helicopter takes off from East Hampton Airport in Wainscott on Thursday, May 29, 2014. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

A federal rule forcing helicopter pilots flying from Manhattan to the East End to travel over water for most of Suffolk to limit noise has been extended for two more years, officials said Friday.

The Federal Aviation Administration said it will continue to study whether the route -- known as the North Shore route -- should be made permanent.

"I am thrilled, and my neighbors up and down the North Shore of Long Island will be equally thrilled," said Craig Cooper of Smithtown, who fought to curb the number of helicopters buzzing over his house.

The rule, implemented in 2012 after residents complained about being bombarded with noise from above, was set to expire Aug. 6.

Under the current FAA regulation, eastbound pilots using the North Shore route between Huntington and Mattituck must stay at least a mile offshore until they can cross land to get to airports in Wainscott and Westhampton Beach, and a heliport in Southampton. Pilots can abandon the route in bad weather. Helicopters with no overwater safety equipment are exempt.

"Luckily for Long Island residents along the North Shore, the beginning of August will not mean the return of onerous helicopter noise that once interrupted dinners, disrupted people from enjoying their backyards . . .," Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.

Helicopter noise has been an issue on the North Shore and East End, particularly on summer weekends when commuters fly to and from their beach homes or vacation spots.

In a year, helicopter pilots make about 11,800 flights, ferrying passengers from Manhattan to the East End and back mostly between May and September, according to Jeffrey Smith, vice president of operations for the Eastern Regional Helicopter Council.

"We applaud the FAA for taking a step back and taking its time to make sure that this type of regulation is necessary," Smith said.

Before the rule was implemented, Cooper said, as many as a dozen helicopters flew over his house every Friday and Sunday.

"It was just an ongoing nuisance," he said. "I work from home and the windows would rattle." Schumer and Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) also are pushing the FAA to extend the over-the-water flight path east all the way around Orient Point, Shelter Island and Plum Island, and west to the Nassau-Queens border.

"I thanked the FAA for acting to protect homeowners, and it is my sincere hope that the FAA will continue to review ways to minimize the reach of noise pollution," Bishop said in a statement.

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