Friday, April 24, 2015

Aviation community is forced to go to court to confront the Town Board's illegal actions at East Hampton Airport (KHTO), New York • Litigation seeks injunctive relief from flight restrictions

Heliflite has joined a lawsuit filed by the Friends of the East Hampton Airport in U.S. District Court that seeks injunctive relief from regulations enacted by the East Hampton Town Board that would severely curtail helicopter operations at East Hampton Airport.

Heliflite CEO Kurt Carlson stated, “This lawsuit happened because the aviation community needed to respond to an illegal scorched earth policy by the East Hampton Town Board.”

Among its other aviation services, Heliflite provides premium helicopter charter service to East Hampton Airport year around.

The litigation asks the court to “enjoin the Town from unlawfully restricting access to East Hampton Airport in violation of federal law. Specifically, Plaintiffs seek to enjoin the Town from putting into effect and enforcing the local laws adopted by the Town on April 16, 2015 (and other laws they may soon adopt), which severely restrict access to East Hampton Airport through the imposition of mandatory curfews and trip limits…”

The lawsuit calls attention to the fact that, “Because the Town’s past studies (conducted in accordance with federal law) did not support the conclusion that there was an airport noise problem in East Hampton, the Town Board, in enacting the Restrictions, ignored those past studies and relied instead on a database of self-selected noise complaints solicited from and called into a telephone hotline by certain homeowners throughout the East End of Long Island. Those so-called “noise studies” are deeply flawed, unscientific, unreliable and inadequate to justify the Restrictions.”

Ignoring Congress’ mandate

The lawsuit further states, “East Hampton Airport is a public-use, federally funded airport that the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) has specifically designated as important to our national air transportation system. Of the approximately 19,000 airports and landing facilities in the United States, the FAA has deemed fewer than 3,400 important to the nationwide system of air transportation – and East Hampton Airport is one of them. Built in the 1930s with federal funds, and developed in the decades since with federal funds, East Hampton Airport connects the eastern end of Long Island to the rest of the nation and supports local and regional economies. Throughout its 79-year history, the Airport has been open to commercial and recreational aircraft of all kinds.”

Carlson says the lawsuit notes, “Although the Town owns and operates East Hampton Airport, the Town has no authority to promulgate airport restrictions that conflict with federal aviation law and policy. Congress has preempted the field of aviation regulation to promote and protect a national air transportation system – recognizing that no national system would be possible if left to patchwork regulation by local governments and subject to local political winds.”

The Heliflite executive says their litigation states, “Under well-established federal law, local governments have no authority to use their police powers to regulate aircraft in flight or to impose airport noise or access restrictions.”   Carlson noted, “What East Hampton is seeking to do is illegal and sets back by at least a year any effort to resolve the issue through compromise, practical operational alternatives and dialogue.”

Rather than reduce noise by this summer, both sides will be in court

Carlson noted, “It is inexplicable why the Town Board would choose a path that guaranteed litigation rather than effective alternatives. It is equally unfathomable that they would seek to impose these regulations without allowing an economic impact report to be introduced into the record. This airport has enabled the East End of Long Island to be an accessible, highly desirable destination and, by doing so, had made East Hampton Township an economically robust community. To endanger the taxpayer, their residential values and the economic strength of the township by imposition of illegal regulations at the airport makes no sense.” 

Original article can be found here:

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