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More helicopters touching down at E. Hampton Airport

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

Traffic is up 20 percent this year at East Hampton Airport, the transportation hub primarily serving helicopters and private jets carrying wealthy summer residents to the Hamptons.

Airport officials are looking into whether Blade, a service unveiled this year that allows travelers to use a mobile phone app to book helicopter flights between Manhattan and the Hamptons, is a contributing factor.

Helicopter traffic is up 40 percent, while jet traffic is down 13 percent, East Hampton Town Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez said.

There were 12,677 total takeoffs and landings at the town-owned airport through July 28, Burke-Gonzalez said Tuesday.

Complaints to an East Hampton Town hotline over noise have more than tripled this year, rising to 10,158 from 2,798. The discontent came from 373 households, many of them outside East Hampton Town in the communities of Noyack and Shelter Island and parts of Sag Harbor.

Noise from traffic at the airport, primarily from helicopters, has rankled residents and led officials to adjust flight paths, install a control tower and take other measures in recent years.

Town officials convened several committees related to aircraft noise, airport maintenance and finances, and are considering restricting flights next year.

Blade representatives did not return requests for comment this week.

Jeff Smith, vice president of the Eastern Region Helicopter Council, an industry group, called helicopters "an important economic lifeline for the community." Through a spokesman, he added that the group will "continue to go to great lengths to work with the community to address noise and at the same time fully harness the economic benefit of what helicopters provide the area. "They're crucial modes of importing economic activity that directly benefits small businesses in the area."

Kathleen Cunningham, chairwoman of the Quiet Skies Coalition, a group that wants restrictions on flights, said her own copy of the app indicates many of the flights above her house are connected with the Blade service.

"The new Blade app has definitely contributed to the increase in helicopter flights -- which emit the most disturbing levels of aircraft noise -- to East Hampton Airport," she said. "It's a nightmare."Traffic at the airport peaked at 32,471 in 2007, before the recession, then declined steadily until this year's upswing, airport manager Jim Brundige said.

Cindy Herbst, owner of Sound Aircraft Services Inc., which offers charter flights and other services, said she has seen travelers using Blade to get to and from the airport this summer.

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