East Hampton Aircraft Traffic Soars In Autumn Of COVID, With Little Quarantine Tracking

East Hampton Airport
Traffic at East Hampton Airport has increased recently, despite the pandemic. file photo

Aircraft traffic at East Hampton Airport has continued to soar in the month of October, the coronavirus pandemic now seeming to have the opposite effect it had on the volume of flights over the summer.

There have been more than double the number of flights into and out of East Hampton Airport thus far in the month of October as there were during the first three weeks of October 2019.

The use of helicopters and private jets by corporate executives and wealthy families who are now using their South Fork homes as their primary residence has spurred a continued steady flow of flights into and out of the airport that has not abated after the summer season as it normally would.

While helicopter flights over the summer were down by more than 70 percent, the numbers in October — while still far below the volumes seen in a normal busy summer month — were up 85 percent over last year.

The same goes for jets, seaplanes and small propeller planes.

“We had 1,700 operations for the first half of October,” said Arthur Malman, chairman of the town Airport Management Advisory Committee. “I can say, from personal relationships, it’s more businesspeople going back and forth, sometimes taking kids back and forth to school, because they have the wherewithal to do that.”

Steve Tuma, who owns Sound Aircraft Services, the airport’s contracted operator, said that the increase in volume has manifested itself in much higher sales of aviation fuel, which is up 50 percent over last year — from 80,000 gallons in 2019 to 127,000 in 2020.
Residents of the neighborhoods beneath the flight paths from the airport say they have noticed the traffic.

“This has been an outrageous October,” said John Kirrane, a Noyac resident who has been a frequent critic this year of recommended flight paths that are sending more helicopters over Noyac on their approach to the airport.

Other airport critics who regularly track aircraft that fly over their homes raised concerns about COVID-19 precautions. Those flying in from states on New York’s mandatory quarantine are supposed to register with state officials.

Mr. Tuma said that his staff is requiring all travelers coming in from out of state to submit an electronic receipt that they have filled out the New York State quarantine information. If they do not have one, he said, they are asked to fill out a form with airport staff. But he acknowledged that the electronic documents are only a receipt and the information about travelers is not being compiled locally.

“When the forms are filled out they get a receipt that the data has been submitted,” Mr. Tuma said, who noted the state has given little guidance and no financial support for small airports conducting the information gathering. “How and where you go to get the information associated with that data, I don’t know.”