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Debate over E. Hampton flight paths restarts

A helicopter lands at East Hampton Airport on

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

The idea of rerouting some helicopters that fly to and from East Hampton's town airport in Wainscott is again making some residents hopeful and filling others with dread.

Although reaction to the plan has been relative to how far people live from the current routes, the potential for any noise increase has prompted the Quiet Skies Coalition -- which has been lobbying for a sound reduction by imposing restrictions on how low helicopters can fly -- to withdraw from talks on route changes with local, state and federal officials.

"Any result bringing more noise to one group at the expense of another is a liability for some portion of our membership," Quiet Skies Coalition president Kathleen Cunningham wrote in an email to the officials.

The rerouting idea is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, she added.

About 30,000 takeoffs and landings are logged at the airport each year, and efforts to shift the noise have been a recurring problem.

The most recent effort to find a new approach to the airport began when one flight path -- known locally as the Northwest Creek route -- was eliminated last summer, resulting in a doubling of noise along another approach, called the power lines/Jessups Neck route.

Now, plans are being discussed to have some of those helicopters fly a "South Ferry" route, going north over Shelter Island and crossing parts of Southold Town as they go between East Hampton and New York City.

Meanwhile, federal officials expect some delays in the opening of the seasonal control tower at East Hampton airport, although it is expected to be in operation by summer. Originally expected to open around Memorial Day, it is likely to be in service by July 4, in time to deal with the big seasonal increase in flights.

When the tower opened for the first time last year, the Federal Aviation Administration considered it a temporary facility.

Now that it is being opened for a second year, the tower is being classified as a seasonal one, and requires an environmental review.

East Hampton, which spent $600,000 to build the tower, also began an extensive noise reporting program last year in an effort to find out which flights and pilots were creating the noise problems.

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