Feds Mandate Copter Routes

     An announcement by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that the Federal Aviation Administration will for the first time mandate Long Island helicopter routes, requiring aircraft to fly over water along the north and south shores, was hailed by Senator Charles E. Schumer, who has been working for flight path regulations. But its effect on areas of East Hampton affected by flights into and out of the town airport may be less than desirable, according to noise-control advocates here.
    “It’s not a good deal for us,” Kathleen Cunningham, the newly appointed head of the Quiet Skies Coalition and former chairwoman of the town’s now-disbanded Airport Noise Abatement Advisory Committee, said at a town board meeting last Thursday.
    Mandated northern and southern helicopter routes will eliminate the use of an approach to East Hampton over Jessup’s Neck, which, she said, “actually increases the number of flights, and noise, over our area.”
    The airport noise committee had recommended the mandated routes, she said, but only in the context of instituting additional measures of control over flights. “This is what we were afraid of,” she said. “We were afraid we’d get the northern and southern routes, and no other ability to control flights.”
    But Councilman Dominick Stanzione said last Thursday that the forthcoming F.A.A. rules are actually good news for the town “when considered in conjunction with the upcoming control tower at East Hampton Airport.”
    “We believe that we will have effective control of air traffic, at least during the peak season,” he said. “I believe East Hampton residents will have as much protection against noise as we can have, under current regulations.”
    Ms. Cunningham said, “I don’t understand the relationship between a control tower and numbers of flights.”
    Ms. Cunningham and the Quiet Skies Coalition have advocated that the town work toward gaining local control over the number of flights into and out of the airport, curfews, and other restrictions.
    Town officials voted to apply for a $100,000 grant from the F.A.A. for repairs to airport fences, which would extend by 20 years the town’s agreements with the F.A.A., including strictures on how the airport may be run.
    The town has opted to work with Peter Kirsch, an attorney specializing in airport matters, to develop an airport management plan focused on addressing noise issues, designing a 41-point draft timeline of efforts.
    “Long Island will not continue to be the Wild West for low-flying, disruptive, and noisy helicopters,” Senator Schumer said in a release. Mr. Schumer, a Democrat, said that the Senate had passed legislation requiring the route changes, but that the measure failed in the Republican-led House, prompting Mr. LaHood to implement the changes via F.A.A. regulations.
    A northern flight route over water will be finalized by Memorial Day and enacted by the Fourth of July, Mr. LaHood promised, while the F.A.A. will move forward with establishing a mandatory offshore route along the south shore, as well as with “creating regulations that protect communities that would be impacted by exit and entry routes on both routes.”
    “The Schumer effort may benefit Nassau County and western Suffolk County, but will have little or no net benefit for residents of the East End,” according to the Quiet Skies Coalition release.
    “For the East End, the Schumer effort will do nothing but reroute an increasing number of helicopters over our residents. Moreover, it completely ignores the ever-expanding noise problem from large and small jets, and now the seaplanes that start in the East River and land at East Hampton Airport with small wheels on their pontoons.”
    Meanwhile this week, Sound Aircraft Services, a private company based at East Hampton Airport, is conducting an online logo design contest for a sign for the airport, with the slogan “Premier Gateway to the Hamptons” and a submission deadline in three days.
    Town officials have not discussed replacing the airport sign, nor were they involved in coming up with the contest, Mr. Stanzione said yesterday. Jim Brundige, the airport manager, said he was unaware of the contest. However, Mr. Stanzione said, “We always welcome competitive endeavors to improve the image of the airport.”
    According to the contest guidelines listed on logomyway.com, the airport “services a very select group of high net worth clients. Most of the people that use our airport are people leaving New York City to come to their weekend home at the beach (Hamptons).” The target audience, the Web site says, is “stock brokers, Wall Street types, city folk, vacationers to the beach, family getaways, high net worth.”
    The contest calls for the use of “greens, yellows, brown, tan, white, aqua, teal, blues (but not too much blue), and red” on a design that it says will be used on Web and print media. According to the site, as of yesterday there had been 28 entries in the contest, which promised a $200 prize.
    Principals of Sound Aircraft were not available to discuss the contest, according to someone who answered the phone there yesterday.
    The town’s signs for its airport are the result of a design competition held some years ago under town auspices.