The National Business Aviation Association has joined with the Helicopter Association International (HAI) and the Eastern Regional Helicopter Council (ERHC) leading the effort to help convince a federal court to overturn operational restrictions imposed by the town of East Hampton, New York at East Hampton Airport (HTO).

This most recent case challenging these restrictions was filed by a single-engine helicopter operator, claiming that the special visual flight rules (SVFR) restrictions at HTO prevented operators from utilizing SVFR when weather conditions otherwise would require to fly using Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) – often barring them from operating at the airport, because its single-engine rotorcraft cannot be certified for IFR.

NBAA supported this lawsuit with an amicus curiae brief – or “friend of the court” brief – providing additional factual and legal information to the court, adding context and reasoning to the request successfully resulting in the court issuing a temporary restraining order stopping town’s prohibition on SVFR.

The brief explained that even though the town funds a seasonal tower at HTO, that does not provide the town any authority to control aircraft operations and thus the restrictions were preempted by the laws and regulations enforced by the FAA.

Most importantly, the implications of the town’s attempt to once again restrict access could have an insidious impact on the National Airspace System (NAS) as a whole.

Jol Silversmith, a partner with the law firm KMA Zuckert, long-standing member of NBAA’s Access Committee and one of the attorneys representing the associations added:

“This would set a negative precedent for the entire country. The notion that a local airport can decide what traffic is allowed would be a catastrophe for aviation; each individual airport cannot set its own standards.”

HTO’s federal grant assurances expire in September, which the town believes allows the closure of the airport. NBAA continues to work tirelessly to preserve the airport which provides a valuable air link to the East End communities, numerous NBAA members that operate in the area, and is a significant contributor to the local economy.