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Oct 3, 2008 1:41 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hangars for antique planes will be constructed at Gabreski Airport

Oct 3, 2008 1:41 PM

Plans are in place for the construction of 13 new hangars on three wooded acres on the north side of Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton, a move that has at least one member of a local airport advisory board concerned about increased noise at the Suffolk County-owned airfield.

Jim Reiher of Quogue, who owns Ocean Aviation—the company that will construct the hangars—explained that the facilities will house antique and historical planes. Mr. Reiher secured a recommendation of approval from the Airport Conservation and Assessment Panel for a 30-year lease during the group’s meeting on Friday morning and now must receive final approval from the Suffolk County Legislature.

Mr. Reiher will not be able to begin construction on the project for at least two months, said Carolyn Fahey, the intergovernmental relations coordinator for the Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Workforce Housing.

Francis S. Gabreski Airport Manager Tony Ceglio noted that the three acres that will be leased to Ocean Aviation are part of a 20-acre section of property at the airfield that has already been earmarked for development in the airport’s master plan. He could not say how much money the county will charge Ocean Aviation to lease the land, noting that the document has not yet been finalized. Suffolk officials will determine the cost of renting the land.

In response to a question raised by Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman of Montauk at Friday’s meeting, Mr. Reiher said he does not expect the business to increase the number of flights originating from and terminating at the Westhampton airport. Neighbors of the airfield have often complained about loud noise from low-flying helicopters and planes, and different groups have fought for various noise-abatement measures.

Mr. Reiher explained that the hangars are meant to accommodate historical aviation “hobbyists” and “tinkerers” who want to work on the mechanics of their planes and not fly them every day. He added that, at the present time, there is no specific location on the East End where antique plane enthusiasts can meet.

Additionally, he stressed that he lives in Quogue and is sensitive to the concerns of neighbors who are upset with local airplane traffic.

Sharon Frost of Westhampton, who sits on the Airport Conservation and Assessment Panel, expressed concern that the historical planes could be as loud—if not louder—than modern helicopters.

A provision in Mr. Reiher’s proposed lease with the county prevents the hangars from being used for commercial purposes, including charter jet and helicopter services. If he decides to alter his business, Mr. Reiher would first have to receive approval from both the airport panel and the Suffolk County Legislature.

Several panel members said they want Mr. Reiher to voluntarily agree to not house helicopters in his hangars in order to limit noise. Mr. Ceglio said county officials cannot legally restrict the storage of helicopters at the facility and Mr. Reiher said on Friday that he would not agree to those terms, explaining that he did not want to be limited by a requirement in the lease.

If the county signs off on the lease, the number of hangars at the 1,500-acre airport will increase to 70, according to Mr. Ceglio. The current master plan for the airport permits a total of 80 hangars.

“This aviation use is as good as we’re going to get,” said Mr. Schneiderman, who also sits on the airport panel. He voted to approve the project and forward the panel’s recommendation to the full legislature.

Additionally, panel members reviewed a change to a lease for SheltAir, a fixed-base operator that mainly sells jet fuel to privately owned airplanes. Panel member Beecher Halsey explained that the altercation will allow the company to reconfigure the layout of its buildings.

“They’re tearing down a vacant building,” Mr. Halsey said on Monday. “They’re changing the layout of their plan. It’s more for aesthetics than anything else.”

In the spring, SheltAir assumed control of Long Island Jet Center’s 40-year lease with the county—a move that incited some panel members because they believe that they should have been included in approving the changes. SheltAir plans to move an already-approved 20,000-square-foot hangar so that the front of the building lines up with the other hangars already constructed at the airport, Mr. Ceglio explained on Monday. The changes are needed to allow aircraft greater maneuverability.

Additionally, SheltAir is reducing the size of an office that will adjoin the hangar by 1,000 square feet. Instead, the company will use that extra space to enlarge the size of its customer service building, Mr. Ceglio said.

The lease states that SheltAir will be renting nine acres, about an acre more than originally planned, at the Westhampton airport. In the original lease, SheltAir agreed to pay the county $101,502 the first year, with that amount increasing by 2.5 percent annually for the life of the 40-year agreement. Ms. Fahey said she did not yet know how that fee schedule will change under the modified lease.

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Keep at them Sharon; the only way they'll live up to the promise of no increased aviation is if they know we're monitoring. Helicopter season is pretty much over, now its the weekend prop and occasional jet flying overhead.
And you are right - antique and older plans are often louder.
By North of Highway (280), Westhampton Beach on Oct 6, 08 10:28 AM
The noise is horrendous now, I don't see how these antique planes are going to be any quieter and they need to test them right? These planes fly so low over my house that I sometimes see the pilots silhouette and my windows literally rattle. No more planes. I am seriously thinking of moving just because of the increased noise levels, its a shame because I moved here for the quiet.
By Westhampton Resident (1), Westhampton on Oct 14, 08 8:08 AM