June 27, 2023

Local stakeholders are helping pilots navigate the unusual operational situation at East Hampton Town Airport (JPX) as the Long Island, NY facility continues to operate as a public-use airport with a voluntary noise abatement program in effect.

In May 2021, East Hampton officials attempted to close the former East Hampton Airport (HTO) and reopen the field as a private-use, prior permission required airport. While a court injunction maintained public access to the airport, the FAA had already processed the town’s request to nominally reclassify the airport as private and change its identifier to JPX.

That led to new hurdles for operators, including the cancellation of existing instrument approach procedures. The FAA has since restored the public procedures, which are available in parallel with the privately developed approaches implemented by the town that require a lengthy process to attain the ability to utilize.

Despite the court ruling, JPX remains listed on FAA charts and records as “Private,” causing further confusion. “Airports listed as private cannot directly publish NOTAMs even though the airport remains open for public use,” noted Kathryn Slye, interim president of the East Hampton Aviation Association. “We’ve developed a hybrid system to make sure word still gets out to pilots,” including via the JPX AWOS recording.

Despite these challenges, operations continue at JPX much as they have before. The seasonal control tower opened in May and is operational 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily through Sept. 10.

With noise concerns at the center of the town’s attempts to curtail operations at JPX, the East Hampton Community Alliance (EHCA) developed a “Pilot Pledge” to promote voluntary curfews and noise abatement procedures at JPX.

“The EHCA is focused on raising awareness of issues facing our community and to be a voice for our community, and that includes working to secure the future of our airport,” noted EHCA Executive Director Erin King Sweeney. “We can emphasize to pilots the importance of flying neighborly while also working with the community to understand their needs.”

Operators and pilots embraced the voluntary pledge, including members of the Eastern Region Helicopter Council (ERHC) who have demonstrated compliance with voluntary curfews and noise abatement routes in the 98th percentile. “Helicopter operators do all we can to be good neighbors,” said ERHC President Blair Payton. “We want those on the ground happy and those in the air happy.”

Payton encouraged helicopter operators to become familiar with the current routes, which are adjusted regularly and have changed slightly for 2023, and to download the ForeFlight content pack to assist with navigation through noise sensitive areas.

Changes have also taken place on the ground. Sound Aircraft Services, JPX’s FBO, implemented a new reservation system and reconfigured their ramp, with helicopter parking moved to the south side.

Review the Sound Aircraft Services briefing “Helicopter Ramp Operations – JPX 2023 Season”

Meanwhile, some stakeholders continue their legal efforts to preserve open access to JPX, as town officials appealed the court’s October 2022 decision that restrictions were inconsistent with both state environmental law and the federal Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990.

“NBAA recognizes that East Hampton access issues are not isolated to JPX, but have an impact on other airports as well,” noted Alex Gertsen, NBAA director airports and ground infrastructure. “That is not solely up to the pilots. We also need collaboration from schedulers, dispatchers, charter brokers and others to advise travelers of the voluntary curfews and noise abatement procedures.

“While we work collaboratively to protect long-term access to JPX, we look to everyone to fly neighborly and to support us in the air, so that we can be successful in our advocacy efforts on the ground,” he said.