New Website for Noise Complaints

Real-time air-traffic information beats 10-minute lag, airport activists say
Planes overhead can be tracked using one of several online systems. Access to information compiled by the East Hampton Town Airport, and a link to lodge a complaint, is provided by one system. Durell Godfrey

East End citizen activists focused on the problem of aircraft noise are keying in to a new online plane-tracking system that provides real-time information about planes overhead and allows complaints to be lodged about aircraft noise.

The system, they say, is more user-friendly than the one set up by East Hampton Town to compile aircraft data and accept complaints about planes using East Hampton Airport.

AirNoise Report was developed by residents of Queens and Nassau affected by planes using metro-area airports. Members of the Southampton Town noise advisory committee told the Southampton Town Board recently that several antennas that relay information to the system have already been installed in areas around East Hampton Airport, and there are plans to install more. The group urged the Southampton board to use the system to collect information about aviation traffic and noise complaints. 

By logging in to a real-time map at AirNoiseReport.com, users can see icons depicting planes detected in the area. Clicking on an icon will reveal an aircraft’s type, altitude, and speed, as well as its registration number. Complaints can be lodged through a link in the same window.

AirNoise Report compiles complaints and issues reports to participating partners, which at present include several New York City, Queens, and Long Island elected officials and a Whitestone, Queens, citizens group.

East Hampton officials have contracted with another company, PlaneNoise, for its online complaint system. East Hampton also has a contract with Vector Airport Systems to record and track the planes using the airport. The information is used to charge landing fees, but is also merged with the complaint data to determine which aircraft are causing the complaints and, in some cases, violating the town’s curfew on overnight takeoffs and landings.

A recently added public access portal allows anyone online access to a flight-tracking map that also accepts complaints. The map can be accessed through an “aircraft flight-tracking” link on the town’s main website and on the airport’s web page. The system shows a plane’s flight track and altitude within an approximately 12-mile radius of the airport, and shows aircraft flying at 10,000 feet or below.

Airport officials can see the information in real time, but the public will have a 10-minute lag time in obtaining up-to-the minute information, which has been a chief source of complaints about the system. Jemille Charlton, manager of East Hampton Airport, said yesterday that as a municipal airport it follows Federal Aviation Administration policy limiting real-time information and blocking aircraft registration numbers.

Critics have also complained that Robert Grotell, the founder of PlaneNoise, has ties to the Eastern Region Helicopter Council, an industry association. Mr. Grotell has served as an adviser to the group.

East Hampton Town Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez said yesterday that the town was satisfied with its complaint and aircraft tracking systems. She said the spreadsheet provided by AirNoise Report was incompatible with East Hampton Airport’s data and could not be automatically incorporated into it.

In addition, she said, the town, with a court case pending that challenges the airport-use restrictions enacted last year, has been advised by its outside counsel on airport matters not to change the way it collects airport use and noise data, which serves as a legal underpinning for the laws being challenged.

Besides AirNoise Report, there are several other online aviation tracking systems, including Planefinder.net and FlightRadar24.com. Each relies on information received either through sensors or antennas installed at locations in the area being monitored, or from aviation radar, for which the closest equipment is at Islip MacArthur Airport.

Sensors for East Hampton’s Plane­Noise system are at Southampton Hospital, a Noyac cell tower site, Maidstone Park in Springs, and the Amagansett Firehouse, said Councilwoman Burke-Gonzalez. Without local data-collection sites, some of the plane-tracking systems could fall short here, Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said.