East Hampton Airport Set to Change to Private Use

Under the FAA’s recommended timeline, the airport would close on February 28 and reopen as a private-use facility on March 4. [Friends of the East Hampton Airport/Facebook]

East Hampton Airport (KHTO), a summertime hub for vacationers on the bustling East End of New York’s Long Island, is bracing for change as local officials seek to reduce noise from jets and helicopters.

The town board of East Hampton is expected to vote Thursday on a plan to temporarily shut down the Class D towered airport, which is currently open to the public, and reopen it as a private-use operation. Under the proposed change, pilots would have to obtain permission before landing there.

The board is pursuing the plan “in order to rein in use of the airport by an increasing number of helicopters, jets, and other aircraft that have had an intensifying community impact, prompting thousands of complaints about noise and other concerns,” according to a statement released Tuesday by town supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc.

The expiration of FAA grant assurances last September gave East Hampton a number of options that included restricting airport operations, switching to private use, or even permanently closing the airport. 

Grant assurances give airports access to federal funds while requiring that they continue to operate, typically for 20 years. By allowing the grants to expire, the town essentially gave up the money in exchange for more control over airport use. 

For some time, the town had considered plans to cut down on growing general aviation traffic, and the noise, safety and environmental complaints it generates. Daily aircraft operations, a statistic used to gauge how busy an airport is, have grown to 82 compared with about 69 in 2019. However, the recent rate of daily operations is about the same as in 2007, before the recession slowed GA activity.

Under the FAA’s recommended timeline, the airport would close on February 28 and reopen as a private-use facility on March 4.

Jonathan Welsh is a private pilot who worked as a reporter, editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal for 21 years, mostly covering the auto industry. His passion for aviation began in childhood with balsa-wood gliders his aunt would buy for him at the corner store. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanWelsh4

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