Press Sessions Turn Focus To East Hampton Airport Conversation On January 30

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Helicopter flights into East Hampton Airport have swollen steadily in the last 20 years and sparked a debate about whether the airport should be closed, which will be the focus of the January 30 Press Sessions event.

The East Hampton Press and the Express News Group will hold the next Press Sessions event in East Hampton Village on Thursday, January 30, focusing on the debate over the future of East Hampton Airport.

The panel discussion, called “Turbulence: Will the East Hampton Airport Survive?”will take place at Rowdy Hall from noon to 2 p.m. Tickets to the event are $35 and include a light lunch. Advance tickets are available at presssessionseast130.eventbrite.com.

As always, the discussion will be moderated by Press staff and feature a panel of speakers closely involved in the subject at hand.

The panel for the airport discussion will include: Pat Trunzo, a Wainscott resident and member of the East Hampton Town Airport Management Advisory Committee; Kent Feuerring, a member of the AMAC and the president of the East Hampton Aviation Association, which advocates for the interests of amateur pilots based at East Hampton Airport; Councilman Jeffrey Bragman, the East Hampton Town Board’s liaison to the airport; Patricia Currie, a Noyac resident and founder of the citizens group Say NO to KHTO, which advocates for the closing of the airport, citing the noise impacts on residents of surrounding neighborhoods; Steve Tuma, owner of Sound Aviation Services, East Hampton Airport’s fixed base operator, which manages the operations of the airport’s aircraft services; and Mark Woolley, an aide to U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin.

East Hampton Airport, referred to by its airport code, KHTO, in aviation circles, is owned by East Hampton Town and is home to more than 100 private pilots. Noise from private aircraft using the airport — helicopters and large corporate jets, primarily — has been a cause of complaint from some residents for decades.

But in the last 15 years, as jets have gotten quieter, a huge increase in the number of charter helicopter shuttle services ferrying ticket-holding passengers between New York City and East Hampton has spiked complaints and outrage over the negative impacts that the convenience of a relatively small number of wealthy visitors have on neighborhoods across the East End.

In 2018, a federal court ruled the town had no right to impose curfews on flights into and out of KHTO or on the number of flights that a given aircraft or operator could make to the airport. With that ruling, the prospect of the Town Board choosing to shutter the airport entirely took on a new tenor. Closing the airport would become possible in 2021, when operational assurances tied to past Federal Aviation Administration grants will expire.

Proponents have argued that the airport provides a critical service to the South Fork in the event of emergencies and natural disasters, that wealthy travelers would abandon the Hamptons should they not be able fly over traffic jams — and take millions in spending with them — and that jobs would be lost both at the airport and at its various related services, as well as at charter helicopter companies.

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