The battle to quiet the skies of the East End continued last Wednesday when Assemblyman Marc Alessi (D-Shoreham) met with a Federal Aviation Administration head for talks on how to track down helicopter pilots violating current rules and voluntary agreements.
Currently, a voluntary agreement asks pilots to fly over Long Island Sound more than a mile offshore, at an altitude of 2,500 feet. A new FAA rule, slated to take effect next spring or summer, would increase that altitude to 3,000 feet to drown out the buzz of the choppers. Most pilots have been flying at just 500 feet, disturbing the peace out East, according to residents and elected leaders.
But East End officials say the new rule is flawed since it would still allow helicopters heading to East Hampton Airport and Westhampton to fly over residential neighborhoods on the North Fork.
Mr. Alessi created a website, www.quietskiesLI.com, for residents to lodge complaints against helicopter operations, documenting the time and location of the violating helicopter so it can be cross-referenced by the FAA and the offending pilot can eventually be nabbed.
The website has garnered an eye-popping 2,300 complaints in less than three months.
“People are doing their job to identify helicopters that are the biggest nuisance and the FAA has been able to tabulate flights and patterns,” Mr. Alessi said. “[The FAA] is going to come up with a methodology that lessens the burden on the North Shore and the North Fork.”
Helicopters currently take a route over the North Shore, regardless of whether their destination is on the North or South shore. Mr. Alessi said he wants to ensure that the North Shore or South Shore route is taken depending on the destination, so as not to overburden one area.
Meanwhile, the East End Helicopter Noise Stakeholders Group, a team of citizens and officials advocating for a change in chopper traffic, has compiled a list of recommendations that is endorsed by East End officials. The recommendations include:
• The use of a South Shore route offshore and over the Atlantic Ocean in addition to the North Shore route, with helicopters flying at least one mile offshore.
• A requirement that helicopters fly at an altitude of 3,000 feet.
• Establishments of a helicopter corridor through JFK airspace to encourage using the South Shore route.
• A stipulation that all East Hampton and Montalk Airport traffic from the North Shore route to proceed east of Plum Gut before turning south.
•FAA procedures for enforcement and monitoring of chopper traffic and noise reduction by Hamptons airports.
Mr. Alessi said the FAA’s Regional Administrator for the Eastern Region, Carmine Gallo, is committed to holding offending pilots accountable. He said the next step is for Mr. Gallo to meet with other East End elected officials.
“We’re holding them to their commitment to come out to Suffolk County and hold a meeting with elected officials so we can sort through the information and complaints that have been filed,” Mr. Alessi said.