East Hampton gets key FAA clearances to privatize airport
The Federal Aviation Administration has given the green light to East Hampton Town’s plan to close its Wainscott airport and reopen it as a private facility after the agency had previously cast doubt on the strategy.
The FAA on Wednesday issued findings of “no objection” to both the town’s plan to deactivate the public airport at 11:59 p.m. May 17 and then reopen it as a private facility at 9 a.m. May 19. East Hampton in a news release called the decision a “milestone” in the ongoing process.
The FAA released a statement saying it “is working closely with the town of East Hampton so all federal regulations are followed to ensure the safety of the airspace. We are committed to working collaboratively to complete this.”
The agency did not comment further on the decision.
East Hampton is using the temporary closure to transition the public airport into a private facility and gain local control over operations and noise. The town, which was unsuccessful in previous attempts to regulate the airport, was legally permitted to shutter the facility after mandates tied to federal grants expired in September.
A new facility with a “prior permission required” model for takeoffs and landings was presented as a compromise between those who want the airport closed permanently and pilots and their advocates who oppose that.
However, in February the FAA issued a letter to the town urging it to reconsider its temporary closure plan, originally slated for Feb. 28 through March 4, as the process could take longer than anticipated. Two weeks later, Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc announced the town had reached an agreement with the federal agency and pushed back the temporary closure dates to May, just ahead of the busy Hamptons’ summer season.
Van Scoyoc could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The town in its news release also said it is working with a consultant, Englewood, Colorado-based Flight Tech Engineering, to develop instrument flight procedures that will require FAA approval. Town officials believe the procedures should be in place by the new airport’s opening day on May 19.
Pro-airport groups remained wary about how the process would play out and what the new restrictions could mean for aviators.
“The latest letter from the FAA does nothing to resolve a number of outstanding questions about how — or even if — the Town of East Hampton can reopen the airport once they close it,” said Loren Riegelhaupt, a spokesman for the Eastern Region Helicopter Council, an industry group.