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Apr 14, 2015 12:54 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Friends of East Hampton Airport Ask For FAA Intervention For Safety And Access

Apr 14, 2015 2:50 PM

For years, tall trees at both approaches to Runway 10/28 at East Hampton Airport have presented a hazard, particularly after sunset, as pilots have to clear the trees before dropping down to the runway for landings—and members of the aviation community say they’ve had enough and want the trees cut down immediately.

In a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration, Attorney Leonard Kirsch, representing pilots and aviation businesses that frequent the airport, asked for the FAA’s help in getting East Hampton Town to remove the obstructions.

“The loss of this approach will present terrible problems for current airport operators,” Mr. Kirsch wrote in his letter. “The town’s failure to address the tree issue is really a back-door approach to creating a nighttime curfew.”

According to Jemille Charlton, the airport’s manager, there are a “multitude” of trees, mostly pines, around the approach ends 10 and 28 of Runway 10/28, and there are trees littered around the airport’s property.

“You want to be able to see the obstructions that are in your way,” he said. “If you’re flying in from the west and you want to land on 10, you may have to go around, because you can’t see the field because of weather conditions.”

Kathryn Slye, a local pilot who flies a Cessna, says approaching the airport is difficult enough for veteran pilots, but for a newbie, it can be quite an experience.

“You need to come in high and drop it down fast,” she said. “It causes you to do an unusual angle to force the aircraft to drop in. For little planes like mine, it’s not too much of a problem. But the bigger you go … you need more runway to land on. There is no margin for error.”

When approaching the runway, pilots must come in on a “glide slope” at about 3 degrees and use precision approach path indicator lights at the end of the runway to tell whether the aircraft is low enough for a smooth landing. There are four lights in total, and when a plane is coming in at the correct angle, there are two white lights and two red lights.

Ms. Slye said because of the tall trees in the way of the approaches to Runway 10-28, the lights don’t exactly work for them.

Mr. Charlton said that while the town is currently considering a curfew at the airport from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.—a vote by the Town Board on a package of new regulations, including curfews, could come as soon as this week—planes cannot use the approaches to Runway 10/28 after sundown anyway, because of the obstructions.

The Friends of the East Hampton Airport, which represents several aviation businesses that use the airport, filed a complaint with the FAA in January asking the administration to direct the town to resolve “critical safety and security gaps” at the airport, which included the removal of trees. This complaint was filed in conjunction with a lawsuit filed against the FAA challenging its ability to waive grant assurances that had been blocking the East Hampton Town Board from restricting access at the airport by certain aircraft.

According to Mr. Kirsch, the complaint will not go through the process and be resolved in time for the busy summer season. “We realize that a prompt resolution of the immediate situation is in the town’s hands,” he said.

Mr. Kirsch said that the town had applied for a waiver from the FAA to clear the trees, but that waiver expired. Town officials were not able to confirm this. However, Town Councilwoman and airport liaison Kathee Burke-Gonzalez said that engineering firm Michael Baker International is finalizing a report on how to deal with the trees and other safety issues at the airport.

Mr. Charlton said that some trees on airport property have already been cut, but there are still many more.

The engineer’s report also is expected to cover the design and cost of installing deer fencing around the entire property, the installation of a weather station, the creation of dedicated approach and departure procedures for helicopters, and the development of a comprehensive and prioritized five-year airport capital improvement program. Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said the firm will present its report at a future work session.

According to the town, the process of cutting the trees down is complicated—the town must gain FAA and environmental approval, as well as approval from landowners whose trees are part of the problem.

Until then, some pilots will continue to be wary of the approach.

“The fear in the pilot community is that it would be unbelievably sad if one of us was seriously injured because of something that could have been prevented,” Ms. Slye said. “This all resonates in the back of our heads. We pray nothing ever happens—it could, and for such a poor reason as neglect.”

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Never heard a better argument as to why the airport should close well before sunset.

Even the FAA should see through this last ditch effort to thwart the will of residents to end the intolerable noise from that airport.

These aviation supporters have no shame whatsoever. they will turn the entire area into one noisy, polluted and very undesirable former resort area in a very short time, then move on to ruin yet another beautiful place in the very same way. Hyannis???? ...more
By Trish (91), Sag Harbor on Apr 14, 15 6:05 PM
You are finally admitting you call the hotline every time you hear the slightest sound from any aircraft of any kind - regardless of whether it is actually noisy or objectively disturbing. You call repeatedly to rack up the hotline statistics without any basis, other than to manipulate the system. You don't care if the aircraft is merely flying past HTO without landing, or perhaps is a military/coast guard aircraft on a training mission, or is a life flight aircraft providing urgent medical help ...more
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Apr 14, 15 10:15 PM
1 member liked this comment
Perhaps Ms. Weaver could update the article to be more specific about the tall trees which are the problem, according to these four geographic areas:

1. Runway 10 glide path -- trees on HTO property
2. Runway 10 glide path -- trees on private property to the west
3. Runway 28 glide path -- trees on HTO property
4. Runway 28 glide path -- trees on private property to the east

The analysis would seem to differ according to which of these 4 areas contain the offending ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Apr 14, 15 8:07 PM
I've lived here for 69 years. I remember Mel Lamb had the biggest airplane in the airport. It was a twin engine and made very little noise! Since 1969 and Dave McConnell G-2 the planes have increased in size, weight and noise with little requard to the surrounding neighbors - they are selfish! To the people that use these aircaft we are dirt under their feet. When I flew with Bill Mueller he would fly down the ocean coasrt well offshore and approachom the East. Helicopters could do the same crossing ...more
By JamesConklin (1), on Apr 14, 15 11:06 PM
1 member liked this comment
Those trees are very important for bird nesting. Don't you need an environmental impact statement of some type before cutting those trees?
By Toma Noku (616), uptown on Apr 15, 15 7:49 AM
Just another attempt to secure funding by Ms. Sly and "friends". At least she has the courage to havet her name in print -- unlike those airport "business" folk who call themselves FRIENDS of EH Airport.
If it came to a vote, without question, most of us would vote in favor of keeping the trees....they give us so much while ythe airport gies only noise and toxic fuel emissions. No contest.
By Trish (91), Sag Harbor on Apr 15, 15 7:56 AM
Yeah, dead people and scrap aluminum scattered on the ground is much safer for the environment than removing some trees. How dare they ask!

Go on google earth and look at the big solar farm in the pine barrens just to south of Brookhaven Lab. How DARE they cut down those trees too!
By Nukiepoo (123), Southampton on Apr 15, 15 7:39 PM
1 member liked this comment
I suppose the pilots would think St. Barth's too risky to fly into because that is a real drop.
It's not about safety or maintenance. It's about expansion of the runways to accommodate larger aircraft...like Jet Blue or Delta? Check out Hyannis/Barnstable Municipal Airport...that's what the aviation community and lobbyists want EH Airport to become. It's all about profit.
EH Town Board is taking care of the maintenance of the airport as safety is always a concern. Curfew necessary. ...more
By mcgrawkeber (47), East Hampton on May 27, 15 1:36 PM