April 8, 2024

Aviation interests continue to prevail in protecting access to New York’s East Hampton Town Airport (JPX) following an appeals court decision affirming the town of East Hampton failed to comply with the requirements of the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990 (ANCA) in a controversial attempt to drastically limit operations at the airport.

Town officials attempted to close the former East Hampton Airport (HTO) in May 2022, claiming that would fully “extinguish” the town’s obligations following expiration of federal grant assurances in September 2021, allowing them to open a “new” private-use airport subject to mandatory curfews and other significant restrictions. The town also claimed ANCA did not apply to these changes.

That move was subsequently blocked by a court injunction, which recently was upheld by the New York State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department.

Although this court ruling reaffirms continued public access to JPX, Alex Gertsen, CAM, NBAA director of airports and ground infrastructure, noted the legal battle is likely to continue as the town signaled its desire to also appeal this decision.

“This latest outcome makes it much harder to restrict or to even close the airport,” he said. “This is a great example of the importance of unwavering airport advocacy, standing up for precedent-setting outcomes to protect access even if it may require to leverage the court system.”

Read the ruling in its entirety.

While East Hampton’s airport remains open to the public, Gertsen noted one significant item remains unresolved and continues to cause confusion for pilots and operators.

Although the town ultimately failed in its attempt to convert the airport to private use, the transition to its new JPX identifier and “private” labeling on aeronautical charts and databases still occurred in May 2022 as the initial court order came down just days before the chart publication date. At that time, the FAA also canceled the existing public instrument approach procedures to the airport.

While the FAA worked expeditiously to restore public IFR procedures, town officials have not submitted the necessary paperwork to the agency to initiate the change on the charts to reflect that the airport remains open to the public. A contempt motion on this issue remains pending.

“Pilots should note the incorrect labeling of JPX as private on FAA charts, which also removed the airport from the NOTAM system,” Gertsen said. “When the runway was closed recently for maintenance, airport officials recruited local pilots to monitor the CTAF frequency to communicate the closure to anyone who may not have been aware.

“That, obviously, is a concern from a safety perspective,” he emphasized. “Until it is resolved, we suggest calling ahead for most current airport information prior to departure.”

Gertsen noted the continued importance of flying neighborly, adding that aviation stakeholders remain committed to the “Pilot Pledge” initiative led by the East Hampton Community Alliance.

“Pilots and operators have continued to embrace the importance of the voluntary noise abatement procedures and helicopter routes,” he said. “We look forward to continued engagement and collaboration with the town and the communities surrounding the airport to further strengthen and find ways to improve that already well-established program.”