Keeping It Simple at the Airport

East Hampton’s proposed solutions center on strict limits on when loud aircraft can land and take off, and how often

Town officials have struck the right balance in deciding in whose interest the East Hampton Airport and the skies for miles around it will be managed.

After years, if not decades, of deference to commercial demands, the town board last week proposed tough rules that put residents first. Board members, especially Coucilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, who spearheaded a monumental effort, deserve gratitude. Thanks comes not only from the immediate community but from the many thousands of people who live in the North and South Forks’ other towns and villages and have had to put up with aircraft noise for far too long.

East Hampton’s proposed solutions center on strict limits on when loud aircraft can land and take off, and how often. The noisier ones, including almost all makes and models of United States-certified helicopters, would be banned from the airport between 8 p.m. and 9 a.m. year round. Helicopters, except those summoned for emergencies, would be prohibited from May 1 through September, while other aircraft classified as noisy would be banned from noon Thursday through noon Monday and limited to a single trip per week during the high season. A hearing on the rules is planned for March 5 at LTV Studios in Wainscott.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of all this is that the voices of protest and threat of legal action have come almost exclusively from those with a financial stake in maintaining unlimited access to the airport. The private, recreational pilots who had, perhaps reflexively, opposed anything having to do with meaningful noise controls have for the most part seen the light — and a common enemy in the for-profit helicopter companies. As for all the well-heeled passengers who fly in on all those leather-seated noisemakers, cold drinks in hand? No one has heard a peep from them so far.

Expect the legal fight over the new limits to be long, hard, and expensive. East Hampton Town officials should proceed with confidence, knowing that residents here and across the East End have their backs.