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Residents say new rules moved helicopter noise to Riverhead Town

A helicopter at East Hampton Airport last year. (Credit: Kyril Bromley/The East Hampton Press)

“We get bombarded,” Aquebogue resident Connie Carlin said when asked about helicopter traffic in her neighborhood, which is near United Riverhead Terminal in Northville. “We had 41 one day. It’s been going on since 2007.” 

She said in an interview Wednesday night that when East Hampton Town enacted a curfew last year limiting when helicopters could take off and land from its airport in Wainscott, it made it worse for people in Riverhead Town.

“That’s because they’re all trying to get there before 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. at night,” she said. “But that’s only from May to September. The rest of the year, we get them at all times.”

Ms. Carlin was one of approximately 25 people who attended an organizational meeting for a Riverhead Town helicopter and sea plane task force being formed by Councilman Tim Hubbard.

The speakers Wednesday said efforts to lessen helicopter noise have instead made it worse, and spread the problem into Riverhead Town.

Donna Henvey of South Jamesport said she never noticed helicopters much in the past, although some of her neighbors did. But after a helicopter pilot’s group enacted a new recommended flight path along the North Shore in April, she started to notice.

“After they changed the flight path, it started to come to Riverhead, and then I noticed more and more and then this Friday, it was really bad,” she said in an interview. “It’s much worse this year than it was last year, and mainly just in the last few months.”

A 2012 Federal Aviation Administration rule commonly referred to as the mandated “North Shore route” required helicopters to fly over the water across Long Island Sound — one mile offshore — and to go around Orient Point rather than fly over houses.

But the rule allows pilots to deviate from the route when safety or weather conditions require it or to transition to a destination.

Local officials say very few helicopters actually follow the route around Orient Point due to those exceptions to the rule, which allow helicopters heading to the South Shore to cross over homes on the North Fork.

The North Shore route was extended by two years in 2014, and is set to expire on Aug. 6 of this year.

To date, the FAA has not indicated what it will do next, according to Mr. Hubbard.

The options are to extend it two more years, rescind it altogether or do something completely different, he said.

The Eastern Region Helicopter Council, meanwhile, unveiled its own voluntary routes in April which they say are an “attempt to significantly reduce noise impact for residents on the North Fork,” although some Riverhead Town residents say it moved the noise problem to their neighborhoods.

These routes have heavy-engine aircraft leaving East Hampton flying over the Orient Causeway and single-engine aircraft flying over land between Cutchogue and Southold on their way to Long Island Sound.

For helicopters going to East Hampton, the new route has them cutting over Northville rather than Mattituck Inlet, as the 2012 route mandated.

Teresa McCaskie, who heads Southold’s Helicopter Steering Committee Coalition, attended Wednesday’s meeting in Riverhead and urged those in attendance to file complaints about helicopter and sea plane noise when they encounter it.

Ms. McCaskie lives near Mattituck Inlet and said she’s been battling helicopter noise for the past nine years. That area was where helicopters began to cut across over land on their way to mostly South Fork destinations under the 2012 rules.

“This is a war. That’s the best way I can describe it to you,” she told the Riverhead group.

She stressed the importance of contacting the offices of Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-Brooklyn) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-Brunswick) to ask for improvements in the flight routes and she urged residents to call in complaints about helicopter noise.

Mr. Hubbard had also provided printouts of numbers to call with complaints.

These include:
• East Hampton Town noise complaint line at 1-800-376-4817
• Eastern Region Helicopter Council at 1-800-319-7410
• completing an online form at www.planenoise.com/khto/
* leaving an email at: [email protected]

Helicopter Complaint Forms by Timesreview

The noise complaint information also included a form letter addressed to FAA administrator Michael Huerta and contact information for the areas state and federal representatives.

Mr. Hubbard also had application forms for residents interested in joining the town’s new helicopter noise task force.

He said he would like to limit the task force to about seven people, which ironically was how many applications he received after the meeting, but that he wouldn’t be opposed to going higher if needed.

Mr. Hubbard said he wouldn’t want 20 people, for instance, because then it would be harder to schedule meetings.

Photo Caption: A helicopter at East Hampton Airport last year. (Credit: Kyril Bromley/The East Hampton Press)

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