March 23, 2021
NBAA recently joined with five other aviation groups in advising officials in East Hampton, NY that they may not have considered all the ramifications of their plan to convert the East Hampton Airport (HTO) to a “new,” private-use facility, and cautioned their plan to nominally close and reopen the airport would not gain them the ability to implement operational restrictions.
Town officials last month voted to delay until May 17 a plan to deactivate HTO and reopen the facility two days later under a prior permission required (PPR) program that could include curfews, frequency limitations for commercial and noisy operations, weight limitations and other restrictions.
In written comments to the town, the associations noted the FAA has yet to determine whether such a “logistically risky conversion process” would grant the town the “local control” it seeks to implement the PPR.
In particular, the groups reaffirmed their position that the town’s proposal would not release it from numerous federal requirements to maintain open access to HTO, including the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990 (ANCA) and both the statutory and implied preemptive authority of the FAA.
“We respectfully submit there is simply no authority for the notion that a paper closure of an airport ‘extinguishes’ those obligations,” the letter read. “As a consequence, the town would be well-advised to suspend its consideration of all of the proposals currently under review,” and withdraw its plans to deactivate HTO in its current form.
The signatories also advised the town to consider potentially detrimental effects from several PPR proposals on the table. Those include likely “spillover” to other communities from traffic diverting from HTO, and the financial and logistical burdens for assuming solo responsibility for maintaining the airport.
The groups proposed a mutually-beneficial resolution, emphasizing their willingness to work with the Town. The associations noted that the town officials may have been too quick to discount a solution under Subpart B of FAR Part 161, which authorizes voluntary agreements between airport users and proprietors.
“We recognize that we are at a unique juncture,” the letter read. “We likewise recognize the challenge of navigating the uncharted path to preserve the airport while responding to requests to reduce volume and frequency of operations.
“Our national and regional organizations are looking forward to engaging with the town and the FAA to seek common ground for a solution that would balance the benefits of both commerce and noise-sensitive operations,” the groups concluded.
The other signatories to the letter are the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Eastern Region Helicopter Council, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Helicopter Association International and National Air Transportation Association.