Aviation

The closure and conversion of East Hampton has been postponed until May

East Hampton’s move to close its East Hampton State Airport (KHTO) later this month and reopen it as a private facility in March was postponed until May 17. This extra time will allow the city and the FAA to try to work together to address approval issues with its airspace, tower staffing, procedures and PPP approaches. According to the updated schedule, the airport will open on May 19.

On Thursday, city supervisor Peter Van Skoyok acknowledged that re-certification of approaches to the airport by instruments could take until the end of the summer and by then make the field essentially just VFR. The FAA had previously warned the city that converting to private use would require a number of approvals that could take up to two years and disable all FAA navigation, meteorological and communications facilities, and that Class D airspace would not apply. The FAA noted that “private airports cannot use state-funded procedures,” that replacement procedures developed must be “special use” and must be approved by the FAA, and that “navigation, meteorological and communications facilities must be restored.”

The city’s strategy to make the airport private, officially in the name of noise reduction, has sparked accusations that the city was at least partly motivated by $ 10 million in unspent federal grants for the airport that the city could try to use to turn the airport into private use. other purposes. In February, the city announced it would spend exactly $ 10 million to purchase 12.4 acres of first-class real estate, turn it into farmland and lease it to a farmer.

The rebuilding of the airport has also provoked widespread criticism from various aviation interests. Earlier this month, Kenneth Grimes, vice president of the Global Medical Response aviation conglomerate, warned the city council that the move would eliminate “the basic utility it provides to the community,” making it essentially an airport only by PVP. “Limiting access in the weather conditions that often prevail on the eastern end of Long Island, undermining our ability to serve the area and hampering our ability to save lives.”

Jeff Smith, Deputy Chief of Operations and Government Affairs of the Eastern Region Helicopter Council, warned his colleagues: “We are in a very serious time. We continue to work on this issue and want to remind everyone of this [KHTO] this is everyone’s problem. Covid has put an incredible strain on our helicopter infrastructure and they are going through tough financial times. Summer service is very important for them, so the reduction or change of activities will greatly affect their livelihood. In an article published earlier this month in Long Island Business News, Smith argued that the hasty conversion of the airport to private use would simply transfer the problem of local noise to other local communities and create “chaos in the sky and more traffic on our roads.”

Smith’s concerns were echoed by Rob Wiesenthal, CEO of Blade Air Mobility. Wiesenthal told AIN that the airport is “one of the most important infrastructure facilities” in the east of Long Island and that converting it to private use is “not the right method” to achieve the city’s advertised noise reduction goal. “We flew tens of thousands of people back and forth between different bases in Hampton [and New York City] and they are not going to stop flying. There are many alternative landing zones from South Hampton to Mantok to Sag Harbor, which can be used by amphibious seaplanes, helicopters. Sag Harbor is just a ten minute drive from East Hampton Airport. What incentive will operators have to fly on noise reduction routes if all of a sudden [East Hampton] is the airport either closed or has many restrictions to limit the number of flights? ”

Wiesenthal said Blade proposed to city councils a number of noise reduction solutions, including the use of surface routes, a deeper curfew, leaving planes at the airport on Sunday evenings for Monday morning travel and limiting the use of noisier and larger ones. early in the morning and late in the evening. “We can do a lot with the curfew, heights and routes,” Wiesenthal said. “But the city has to get involved.”

https://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/general-aviation/2022-02-18/east-hampton-closure-and-conversion-delayed-until-may The closure and conversion of East Hampton has been postponed until May

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