A Conversation with Kent Feuerring

Kent Feuerring. Peter Boody Photo

Kent Feuerring, a pilot, aircraft owner and president of the East Hampton Aviation Association, is executive producer and partner with the film production company apictures, which has shot commercials throughout the United States and Canada, Europe and South America for clients including Cadillac, Tylenol, Lockheed Martin and Kawasaki. A native of Miami who summered in Amagansett with his parents growing up, he has lived in the Sag Harbor-Sagaponack North area for 30 years and raised a son here who attended local schools. His responses to our questions have been edited for space.

What is the East Hampton Aviation Association?

It’s a group of local pilots that come together to work with the community and the town to help the future of the airport. In addition, we’re here to work together and have fun with general aviation: everything from safety matters to flying out on weekends for the $100 hamburger.

Who are the members?

We have about 90 members, 75 active currently; it’s one of the largest single-airport-based aviation groups in the country, according to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA).

What does the association do?

Other than weekend flyouts we try to put together, we do a couple of large events every year to raise public awareness. In the fall, we always do Just Plane Fun Day. This will be our third annual one in September, 2019. It’s just a great get-together for the community … We’re also this year doing Wings Over Haiti at the airport, an event in June to raise money for a second school in Haiti.

Does the association represent all users of the airport, like helicopter operators?

We’re representing aviation as a whole and therefore we have to be inclusive of all groups, whether they’re general aviation, corporate or whatever other groups there are. That doesn’t mean we’re not working closely with them to reduce noise. We’re a community first and pilots second and we work very closely with the community to mitigate the noise, to work with the public, to educate them.

Have the voluntary noise abatement routes for helicopters helped reduce noise?

I absolutely believe the voluntary routes and voluntary curfews have helped mitigate noise for some. But it’s definitely not been the answer completely. The world is changing. The FAA has not shifted its policy enough to embrace the new world order with its incredible number of helicopters.

Are you saying maybe there’s a way to restrict helicopters, which are probably the noisiest aircraft here?

The FAA set up their guidelines many, many years ago. This was not even on their radar as an issue. Clearly the FAA does not give any power to a local community to make any change to the aviation system …We would like the FAA to give us opportunities for more control.

Can the Town Board close the airport after the last FAA grant assurances expire in 2021?

My understanding is no town can shut down a public airport, with or without grant assurances, based on noise complaints alone. We’re hoping the town sees the way, if this issue ever sees the light of day, to putting it to a referendum and not just a vote of the Town Board, which would be political suicide. We believe the town in general is for the airport and only a small, vocal minority really wants it closed.

What’s your sense of where the board stands?

I was just voted in by the Town Board as a member AMAC, the Airport Management Advisory Committee, so I work very closely with the Town Board. We meet monthly with the board’s two liaisons, Jeff Bragman and Sylvia Overby. My impression is they don’t really want to close the airport but it’s very important to them to embrace the noise issue and work closely with the community to mitigate the noise issue, as it is for us.