All of a sudden, those who object to the noise of aircraft using East Hampton Airport have become a lot more numerous. After a unilateral decision by the Town of East Hampton to direct more traffic over Noyac and eastern Southampton, residents of those areas are mobilizing. There have been meetings, visits by Southampton Town officials to the new air traffic control tower at the airport, and even protests by placard-carrying people from both sides of Town Line Road, who seek quiet. This is new and bears watching. Elected officials and their respective parties would ignore these voices at political peril.
A primary issue is the early morning and evening din from commercial helicopters, though fixed-wing aircraft contribute their share. These are distinct from the planes of private enthusiasts who use the airport and whose interests have unfortunately been co-opted by those of the commercial companies. Local pilots should be working to protect their passion, not promoting increasing expansion of for-profit use of the airport — something that could lead to a final showdown that nobody wants.
Voluntary no-fly hours and different routes have not provided relief for beleaguered residents. Nor has the control tower made a wholesale difference. The course being charted by East Hampton officials is one of greater confrontation rather than concerned response. Limits on what kind of aircraft can use the airport and when appear to be the only solution. The current, anything-goes approach is destined for failure.