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OpinionEditorial

FAA must land study on East End chopper noise

Campaign finance records reveal that helicopter companies and

Campaign finance records reveal that helicopter companies and their allies are spending tens of thousands of dollars in a bid to unseat East Hampton Supervisor Larry Cantwell and his running mates, who all supported air-traffic restrictions that went into effect during the summer. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

The East End has been making noise about helicopters for more than a decade. Chopper trips to the Hamptons for wealthy vacationers and weekenders have been around much longer but the flights — and subsequent complaints from homeowners whose tranquility was shattered — began spiking about 10 years ago.

So we are dumbfounded that the Federal Aviation Administration, faced with an Aug. 6 deadline to decide what to do about the unpopular route that crosses the bucolic North Fork, chose to extend it for another four years. It did so without holding a required public hearing. And its stated rationale was a gem: to conduct “ongoing helicopter research that will be considered to determine appropriate future action.”

What exactly has the agency been doing all this time?

The FAA does not need another four years to study the issue. Its parameters are well known. The East End economy needs wealthy people. But everyone — including year-round residents — deserves respect. The helicopters create too much noise for too many people. East Hampton Town took its own steps last year, instituting curfews at its airport that reduced nighttime traffic but pushed flights into other hours.

It’s past time the FAA responds with a mitigation plan. Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Lee Zeldin have pushed for overwater routes that minimize flights over houses. One would be off the South Shore, the other would extend the North Shore route around Plum Island. Either or both, though longer and more costly for helicopter operators, would be an improvement.

The FAA needs to act. The cacophony has gone on for far too long.

— The editorial board

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