Thunder in the Air

The sheer scale of airport use is stunning

When the numbers are laid out, they are stark: This year, between Thursday, May 22, and Memorial Day, a four-day span, there were 475 complaints about noise coming from aircraft using East Hampton Airport. This was nearly double the number recorded during the same period the previous year and, just as significant, the calls came from more than twice the households as in 2013. East Hampton Town officials clearly have a noise crisis on their hands.

The sheer scale of airport use is stunning. Over the four-day weekend, there were 872 “operations,” as takeoffs and landings are called in regulatory parlance, about 20 percent more than during the same weekend the year before. Of these, 341 were window-rattling helicopters, which led to the greater share of the public’s complaints. Furthermore, traffic controllers at the airport are beginning to say that the route changes designed to limit helicopter noise are instead creating potential problems.

Fiddling with routes only moves the problems around — and may be a danger to those in the air as well as those on the ground. Setting curfews on the noisiest aircraft and perhaps implementing curbs on the number of helicopters that can use the airport per hour appear to be ahead. East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said on Tuesday that there must be limits. How right he is.