What is East Hampton Town’s relationship to the FAA?
The FAA is the governing body under which all aviation in the United States
is regulated. The mission of the FAA is “…to provide the safest, most efficient
aerospace system in the world.” (http://www.faa.gov/about/mission/) Its
regulations are generally applicable to all airport proprietors, whether they
have accepted FAA funding or not. These general regulations do not
prohibit a municipal proprietor, like the Town of East Hampton, from
local control of noise.
Does the Town of East Hampton have the power to pass
local laws that would directly limit aircraft noise?
The Town of East Hampton is the owner or “proprietor” of the airport.
Municipal airport owners are empowered to impose rules limiting airport
access and use in order to protect the community from noise. Local noise
controls can limit hours of operation, establish curfews, apply weekend
restrictions and even ban the noisiest helicopters.
Local control was explicitly approved in a leading federal case wherein
New York City exercised local control to mitigate noise from a Manhattan
heliport. (National Helicopter Corp. of America v. City of New York et al
2d Cir. 1998.)
Local control law is effective and undisputed; only the US Supreme Court
can change it. Local control is an indisputable legal right, confirmed in
The National Helicopter court, in confirming the lower court decision, stated
that “the district court, although generally recognizing federal preemption
over the regulation of aircraft and airspace, observed that municipalities
that are proprietors of local airports – like the City with respect to this
Heliport – may regulate an airport’s noise levels in a ‘reasonable, non-arbitrary
and non-discriminatory manner.’” In its holding, the court elaborated, “Hence,
federal courts have recognized federal preemption over the regulation of
aircraft and airspace, subject to a complementary though more ‘limited
role for local airport proprietors in regulating noise levels at their airports.’
City and County of San Francisco v. F.A.A., 942 F.2d 1391, 1394 (9th Cir. 1991).
Under this plan of divided authority, we have held that the proprietor
exception allows municipalities to promulgate ‘reasonable, non-arbitrary
and non-discriminatory’ regulations of noise and other environmental
concerns at the local level. Concorde I, 558 F.2d at 84 (regulations of
noise levels); see also Western Air Lines, Inc. v. Port Auth. of N.Y. and N.J.,
658 F. Supp. 952, 957 (S.D.N.Y. 1986) (permissible regulations of noise
and other environmental concerns), aff'd, 817 F.2d 222 (2d Cir. 1987).
National Helicopter Corp. of America v. City of New York et al.”
This right is voluntarily given up by contractual conditions when the Town
accepts grant funding from the FAA.
What are FAA grant assurances?
Grant assurances, entirely separate from FAA general regulations, are the
terms of the legal contract between the grantor (FAA) and the grantee
(the Town of East Hampton). These assurances, or legal obligations, are
listed in the language of the agreement and remain in effect for up to
20 years from the date the grant is approved.
(http://www.faa.gov/airports/aip/grant_assurances/.) These grant assurances
impose operating criteria on the airport proprietor or sponsor, which the
sponsor is obligated to uphold for the duration of the grant.
Which grant assurances expire in 2014 and how do they relate
to noise abatement for local residents?
As part of a court settlement reached between the FAA and a private citizens
group, The Committee to Stop Airport Expansion, (http://quietskiescoalition.
org/files/History_Of_FAA_Control_Of_EH_Airport.pdf) the grant assurances
applicable to noise mitigation will expire at midnight on December 31, 2014.
The following grant assurances will expire on that date:
22.a (Young Environmental Sciences, East Hampton Airport Final GEIS,
August 2010, Appendix A, Grant Assurances Airport Sponsors, p. 8),
22.h (Young Environmental Sciences, East Hampton Airport Final GEIS,
August 2010, Appendix A, Grant Assurances Airport Sponsors, p. 8)
29.a (Young Environmental Sciences, East Hampton Airport Final GEIS,
August 2010, Appendix A, Grant Assurances Airport Sponsors, p. 12), and
29.b (Young Environmental Sciences, East Hampton Airport Final GEIS,
August 2010, Appendix A, Grant Assurances Airport Sponsors, p. 12)
Grant assurance 22.a: The lifting of this grant assurance allows the Town, as
airport proprietor, to limit use of the airport to particular types of aircraft. This
means helicopters, Stage II jets, seaplanes and other noisy aircraft. If the Town
does not accept any further FAA funds, binding it contractually for up to another
20 years of standard grant assurances, is will, as of December 31, 2014 be
able to prohibit use of the airport by aircraft it deems too noisy.
Grant assurance 22.h: The lifting of this grant assurance allows the Town, as
airport proprietor, to set conditions for airport users, meaning it can establish
curfew, hours of operations, frequency of operations, and other meaningful
management tools as it sees fit.
Grant assurance 29.a. The lifting of this grant assurance relieves the Town,
as airport proprietor, of the requirement to have on file at all times a current
Airport Layout Plan (ALP). This allows the airport to continue to operate within
the network of general public aviation without this particular document.
Grant assurance 29.b: The lifting of this grant assurance relieves the Town,
as airport proprietor, of the requirement to remedy, at its expense, any changes
the Town may have made at the airport which were not approved by the FAA.
This allows the Town to continue to operate and upgrade facilities at its airport
as needed without specific FAA approval, or in relation to an ALP.
What would the Town of East Hampton have to do to enact local
airport noise control laws?
As noted above, when assurances expire at the end of the contract, an airport
proprietor can again enact local noise controls. In less than 3 years –
December 2014 – the applicable FAA grant assurances for East Hampton Airport
will expire, leaving the Town within its rights to enact local airport noise controls.
If the East Hampton Town board accepts new FAA money this year or in the
future, it will surrender, again, its right to local control for up to another
it can seek to impose local airport noise control only by following a very
elaborate and expensive procedure pursuant to FAA regulations, Part 161
Note of Approval of Airport Noise And Access Restrictions
But, in the two decades since the FAA has had this procedure, the FAA
has approved a significant municipal airport noise mitigation program only
once, and then only after being ordered to do so by a Federal court after the
municipality spent millions of dollars in litigation.
(City of Naples Airport Authority v. FAA, Cite as: 409 F.3d 431).
Would local control by the Town of East Hampton make the
airport less safe?
No. The FAA will continue to regulate aircraft flight, equipment and safety
as it always has. The airport has run safely following FAA protocols, just like
other general use airports have nationwide, with or without FAA grant
assurances. Local noise control does not have an impact on safety.
What is East Hampton Town government doing today about
The Town Board is in the process of making application for additional FAA
funding for plans to build a deer fence, surrendering the rights of the proprietor,
again for many years. Despite a draft proposed noise program (http:
//quietskiescoalition.org/files/41Points.pdf), under FAA contractual grant
conditions, it is not possible to limit airport use or limit access in order to
control noise or reduce the number of flights or helicopter traffic, except
pursuant to FAA regulation Part 161, discussed above. Moreover, that
draft proposed program puts even a Part 161 study at the very bottom
of its priorities.
Would local noise control by East Hampton Town harm
East Hampton attracts visitors and celebrity homeowners precisely
because local citizens had the foresight to preserve its quiet rural charm
and worked hard to do so (http://www.town.east-hampton.ny.
See “Vision Statement”, pg. 7). Aircraft noise and increasing levels of
fuel emissions damage that much sought serenity and degrade the
environment and quality of life for residents and visitors alike.
Unchecked aircraft noise damages the East End economy; local noise
control will help protect it. If air traffic and the resulting noise increases as
forecast, East Hampton and the entire East End will become a far less
desirable destination for discerning visitors.
Does the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pay the cost
of operating the airport?
FAA grants do not cover operational expenses. The airport generates
more than sufficient income from its operating revenues to meet day-to-day
operational needs. It currently has a budget surplus of over $1.5 million.
How is the airport funded?
East Hampton airport generates revenue from a variety of sources, including:
airport, are charged a fee for landing. Aircraft which are not based at East
Hampton airport pay a fee for landing there. Locally based aircraft are not
charged landing fees. Airport management reports receipts of transient
landing fees in excess of $600,000 annually.
b. Leasing income. All hangars at East Hampton airport are privately
owned, however, the land they sit upon is leased from the Town. Lease
agreements are negotiated on behalf of the Town by airport management
and adopted by the Town Board.
c. Jet fuel flow charges. East Hampton based plane operators, like
all aircraft operators who fill up at East Hampton airport, pay a small fee
called a fuel flow charge, to help defray airport costs.
d. Tax levies. For many years, East Hampton Town property owners
also supported the airport through a less than 1% property tax. This tax
has not been levied against property owners since 2010. While unrelated
to FAA funding sources, the Town can impose a tax on residents whenever
it chooses. But, there should never be such a need, given the airport’s
operating income potential.
funded at the airport?
Large capital improvement and maintenance projects, such as repaving of
runways, can be largely funded through subsidy grants from the FAA. However,
there would be no need for such federal subsidies if the airport were run on a
sound, business-like basis and with adequate business planning for user,
lessee, fuel and other fee income together with prudent bonding procedures.
The Town has never carried out such financial planning.
Only 17% of all US airports are eligible for FAA funds
(Federal Aviation Administration, National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems, Report to
Congress 2009-2013, Table 1: Airport Statistics, pg. 9.).
Airport proprietors, such as the Town of East Hampton, may apply for such funding.
However, the vast majority of airports operate without FAA funds. These airports
serve much less wealthy patrons than those served by East Hampton. East Hampton
airport serves a wealthy, high-end clientele.
Why are helicopters permitted to fly at such low altitudes?
The FAA imposes a minimum altitude requirement of only 500 ft. for
helicopters flying over people, vehicles or structures. (http://rgl.faa.
QUIET SKIES COALITION PO Box 956 Wainscott, NY 11975