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No Plane No Gain

East Hampton Seeks Legislative Support For Control Of Airport

The East Hampton Town Board has asked Congress to give its officials the power to impose restrictions on flights at the East Hampton Airport as part of a new Federal Aviation Administration work plan—a new tack in the town’s struggle to maintain control over traffic at the airport. 

In a letter to the supervisors and mayors of the East End’s villages and towns, East Hampton officials asked their counterparts to urge U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer and U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin to include language drafted by the town in the FAA legislation. 

The proposed directives would order the FAA to allow the town to impose “reasonable restrictions” on flights at the airport immediately, and for as long as the town declines to accept FAA grant funding, as the town says the FAA had pledged it could do as part of a 2005 lawsuit settlement. 

The town has proposed being freed from the Airport Noise and Capacity Act, or ANCA, as long as it no longer accepts FAA funding. 

In early 2015, the town imposed curfews on flights at the airport based on correspondences between the FAA and former U.S. Representative Tim Bishop that town officials believed had left them with the power to impose reasonable limitations on flights. 

But after charter helicopter companies sued, a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling last fall found that the town must comply with ANCA, which prevents municipal airport managers from setting restrictions on flights without express permission from the FAA. 

Last month, the town began preparing to apply to the FAA for permission to impose new flight rules. The application, however, could take several years to complete. 

Congress is in the process of drafting a “reauthorization” of the FAA, a periodic review of the agency’s charge. Following the rejection by the U.S. Supreme Court of a request to hear an appeal of the case challenging the curfews, town officials said they would be exploring a variety of avenues to try to win control of the airport.

The language the town has proposed reads: “Unless [the town] wishes to remain eligible to receive future grants of federal funding … [the town] is not required to comply with the requirements under the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990,” and “[The town] shall not be in violation of the prohibitions against exclusive rights … by adopting any such new airport noise and access restriction.”

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