The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) has joined a federal lawsuit and is considering additional measures to ensure that general aviation pilots continue to have access to New York’s East Hampton Airport (HTO).
According to NBAA officials, town officials are poised to implement a set of noise and access restrictions that the association has warned are unfair, unreasonable and unjustly discriminatory.
“Despite repeated warnings to town officials from NBAA and other aviation interests that local airports do not have the authority to regulate the types of aircraft that can operate at that airport, East Hampton is setting the stage for years of costly litigation by attempting to implement severe operating restrictions at HTO,” said Steve Brown, NBAA chief operating officer. “As a public-use airport receiving federal funds, East Hampton is bound by grant assurances and other regulations that require it to operate within compliance with federal aviation law and policy.”
Brown said that NBAA is joining as plaintiff a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court by the local organization Friends of East Hampton Airport, as well as the Helicopter Association International and other parties.
The suit challenges the legality of the airport restrictions, including:
- A curfew from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. for all aircraft;
- A curfew from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. for so-called “noisy” aircraft, and;
- A limit on the same “noisy” aircraft from taking off and landing at the airport more than once per week during the summer.
The town also released an “original and unique” list of aircraft that fall into its “noisy” category, and according to NBAA’s Brown, many types of jet aircraft flown by NBAA members ─ in addition to most helicopters ─ would fall into that category. Small jet aircraft, such as the Learjet 31A and 35A and the Beechjet 400 are included, as well as aircraft such as the Falcon 900EX and Bombardier CL-600.
“All of the restrictions pose potential operational safety risks and concerns at odds with federal policy,” notes the lawsuit, which asserts that, “The restrictions are preempted under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution because they violate and conflict with federal law and policy. The restrictions also violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution because they unduly burden interstate commerce.”
In addition, the restrictions on operations, especially during the summer months, will have an “irreparable economic impact” on airport businesses, as well as the jobs, investments and revenue that East Hampton Airport provides to the local area, said Brown.
“East Hampton is part of a national system of airports, and operational restrictions like those under consideration present a threat to the national air transportation system that transcends local communities,” noted Brown and other aviation groups in an earlier letter to the town council. “This is a critical element in the survival of our nation’s system of airports and one the town can expect will be vigorously defended.”