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Feb 11, 2014 1:42 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Software Tracks Traffic, Complaints At East Hampton Airport

Feb 11, 2014 2:47 PM

What happens when a Noyac resident calls in a complaint to East Hampton Airport about helicopter noise that was just too unsettling?

All of the information provided by that caller is tracked, checked out and archived. All calls are screened by an airport management employee who has the ability to check which flight was the culprit and, if necessary, talk with the pilot to solve the problem.

These capabilities are important to the airport’s daily operation, according to airport manager Jim Brundige, who has asked the town to continue to budget for these interactive flight programs.

“For an airport this size, this is sophisticated technology,” he said inside his office at the airport recently. “Without the tracking system we would be blind to where the aircraft fly in the sky. There is no radar over the East End of Long Island. The system is also necessary in order to manage any kind of noise mitigation program.”

PlaneNoise, the program the airport uses to monitor noise complaints, collects voice mails and transcribes each message so that airport personnel can look at each individual case.

For example, a Lincoln Street resident of Sag Harbor left a noise complaint on January 27.

Since the program tracked the address where the call came from and the time the offending noise occurred, Mr. Brundige and airport attendant Jemille Charlton were able to find the specific flight that had a route over that Lincoln Street home, as well as its altitude and air speed on another program, called Exelis Airscene Aircraft Tracking.

In another case, they discovered that a repeat offender pilot did not take off over Georgica Pond as high as he should have, resulting in another noise complaint.

Mr. Brundige said the pilot was supposed to be at least 1,200 feet when flying over Georgica Pond. He was flying at 800 feet.

“We just want to be cooperative with the pilots,” he said. “Most really want to help because they know that we are under pressure by the community.”

Additionally, the airport’s management is able to see where it gets the most complaints from and how many, thanks to PlaneNoise.

In 2013, there were 3,400 complaints, most concerning helicopter noise over Sag Harbor and Noyac, Mr. Brundige said.

Last August, there were 38 noise complaints, including 12 from Sag Harbor, over which helicopters typically depart. Mr. Brundige said most of those complaints are sight complaints, meaning someone saw a helicopter and complained.

He said airport management asks the pilots to fly higher in these cases or works with them to find different routes.

Mr. Brundige said that in 2012 there were 3,681 helicopter complaints, and that there were 1,817 in 2013. He attributed the decrease to continued efforts to work with the pilots, which is made possible by the airport’s interactive programs.

Airport staff is able to take a screen shot with Exelis of an offending pilot, for example, and send it to the Eastern Region Helicopter Council.

At the end of January, Mr. Brundige said the airport had logged 22 complaints.

“The pilots know someone is watching,” he said.

Keeping such good track of every flight wouldn’t be possible without Exelis, he said. Not only does the program keep track of incoming and outgoing flights, it archives them for three years.

Vector Airport Solutions also keeps things running smoothly at East Hampton Airport, Mr. Brundige said. This program captures all takeoffs and landings 24/7 and automatically charges landing fees. He said Vector is needed because there are some flights that airport cameras might miss, typically helicopters.

“We don’t have a 24-hour staff,” he said. “We missed a fair amount of landings prior to engaging [Vector].”

The East Hampton Town Board just approved the renewal of Exelis at its regular meeting last Thursday. The two-year contract comes at a cost of $106,741.

PlaneNoise and Vector’s contract renewals are still under consideration by the town. According to Mr. Brundige, to renew the contract for PlaneNoise, the town may need to budget approximately $15,675. Vector may require approximately $14,033 for a renewal.

“These three programs complement each other,” Mr. Brundige said. “We draw on each one to get the big picture.”

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For the last 3 years, residents were asked to document every noise infraction for documentation of this severe problem. 3,400 complaints last year from Sag Harbor and Noyac alone? Yes, Mr. Brundige, you still have a big problem. Now that Stanzione is out of the picture, and out of your life, you have a unique opportunity right now to grab the reins, lead the pack and make changes NOW. Thanks
By SagHarborBob (91), Life is Good on Feb 13, 14 12:57 PM
1 member liked this comment
You forgot to mention that the vast majority of those calls came from two people, one of whom would call the hotline upwards of 14 times per day (for the sole purpose of running up the numbers to skew the statistics). The article makes it clear that both the airport and the local pilots are making efforts to address the helicopter noise problem (typically due to non-local helicopter pilots), yet you anti-airport people still want nothing less than to close the whole airport to build new houses ...more
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Feb 13, 14 4:55 PM
1 member liked this comment
Here you go again . . .

Tiring and monotonous . . .

No one is talking about closing the airport.

Move on please . . . .
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Feb 13, 14 5:04 PM
1 member liked this comment
Give me a break with the "they want to close the airport" garbage. Given the total number of aircraft events in a given Summer day that involve too much noise, or flying too low, 14 calls from someone affected to register EACH problem is a realistic number. As a local pilot, you should demand that Brundige actually deal with the "non-local helicopter pilots" you say are causing much of the problem. This is the same man that let "your" airport get into such a state of disrepair. Good luck!
By SagHarborBob (91), Life is Good on Feb 14, 14 1:11 AM
What is the phone number all of these people are calling? I have at least three different "official complaint numbers" from the past three years. If you are going to report this story, please provide all relevant information.
By Mugsy (2), East Hampton on Feb 13, 14 2:11 PM
Quiet Skies Coalition reports that there are 3 ways to register Noise Complaints

CALL: 1-800-376-4817, then select the type of
aircraft you are complaining about.
ONLINE: www.planenoise.com/khto/
SEND EMAIL to East Hampton Town Board
members and to your Government reps.
By SagHarborBob (91), Life is Good on Feb 13, 14 2:54 PM
1 member liked this comment
While, Noyac is routinely mentioned North Sea is west of Noayc in which the copters fly through before they disturb our neighbors. North Sea has a tremendous overflights of helicopters and low flying seaplanes that sound like buzz bombs. Sea planes and anything coming out of East Hampton should try to gain altitude as quickly as possible and do so while heading to the water where there are no homes. In bound should be over water and the least amount of distance over land, and when over land be at ...more
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Feb 13, 14 2:43 PM
For non-aviation folks, the sky over Long Island is not just a great big blue area where pilots can fly wherever they feel like. There are actually very strict limitations on where and what altitude planes can fly, which is why seaplanes stay between 1500-2000ft and skirt the top coast of the island. It is also not particularly safe to try to rapidly decend from 2000ft to land. The descent takes time and distance to accomplish safely. While planes should generally not be operating at less than ...more
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Feb 13, 14 5:17 PM
“Under pressure by the community” is classic Brundige understatement. The relentless noise has not been addressed over decades of complaints, and Brundige himself took the “credit” for placing over 80% of helicopter noise over one route in 2012 (although it is now widely accepted that that particularly malicious act was directed by Stanzione, at the behest of Tom Twomey and his cronies in the EH Aviation Association—the same Twomey who tried to get all flights routed ...more
By Trish (91), Sag Harbor on Feb 13, 14 4:53 PM
1 member liked this comment
Most people have just given up calling, they know the ":game". It is widely acknowledged that for each call that is made, there are dozens that are not. the airport spinners can spin all they like, but the community voted clearly that there is a big big problem at the airport. and let no one outside of EH be at rest, now is the time to let the new town board members know that those outside of EH town borders will hold them responsible for fixing what ails us. and that is East Hampton Airport. ...more
By Trish (91), Sag Harbor on Feb 13, 14 5:03 PM
1 member liked this comment
Some of these comments are so outrageous and some from EH residents who don't have to put up with helicopters flying DIRECTLY over their homes. What no one is addressing is....................there are alternative routes pilots could be flying but because they are slightly longer, they choose not to. Charge those rich folks coming out during the summer a little more money and let us enjoy our outdoor
spaces which we use YEAR ROUND.
By lovesag (17), Sag Harbor on Feb 14, 14 8:25 AM